Republican Jeb Bush learned this week there is a downside to his efforts to prepare for a possible 2016 White House run while holding off for now on an official campaign launch.
To avoid creating an impression that Bush was skirting campaign finance laws, his lawyer had to ask a Florida man to stop running ads touting the former Florida governor as a presidential candidate.
Attorney Charlie Spies managed to get the Bush supporter, Jay Schorr, to change the ad after he vowed to “vigorously pursue all possible legal remedies” against Schorr.
Bush, who announced on Facebook in December he was contemplating a White House bid, has crisscrossed the country to attend lavish fundraisers — including a $100,000 per plate dinner – where donors gathered to cheer him on as a potential White House contender. But at each event, he and his aides have emphasized he is not running for president — yet.
The claim allows Bush to work closely with funding organizations to rake in big donations without breaking campaign finance laws. Once politicians launch a campaign or say they are “testing the waters,” they face tighter fundraising restrictions.
Campaign finance laws limit the amounts candidates can accept in donations from individuals and corporations, and they prohibit candidates from coordinating campaign strategy with outside organizations such as political action committees that support them.
“We are grateful for the support Gov Bush has received encouraging him to run, but the PAC also operates within legal constraints that can require us to request that legally problematic activity, even if well intentioned, must stop,” Spies said in a statement to Reuters on Wednesday.
Spies, who represents Bush and his Right to Rise super PAC, on Monday wrote to Schorr about the spot, “War,” which began running in February. In the ad, a deep voice urged Republicans to unite in a fight for control of America, then intoned: “Jeb Bush: Americans and the Republican party approve his message.” A disclaimer followed: “The preceding message is from a supporter of Jeb Bush and is not affiliated with the Bush for president campaign.”
In a “cease and desist” letter, Spies expressed appreciation for Schorr’s enthusiasm but said that Bush was “NOT a candidate for any office” and had not approved the ads.
It was not the first time a politician has had to create distance from unsolicited supporters.
Last year, fans of Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren formed a group to push her candidacy for the White House even though Warren has said she does not plan to run. Warren’s lawyer sent the organization a letter making clear the senator does not endorse the group’s efforts.
Schorr responded to Spies’s letter by recasting “War” as a “message we’d like Jeb Bush to make to the Republican party.” The deep voice now says: “The following is a message from a Jeb Bush supporter. He is not, I repeat not, associated in any way with Jeb Bush, who is not currently a candidate for president. Got it? Good. That should make non-candidate Bush’s lawyers very happy.”
(Reporting By Emily Flitter; Editing by Caren Bohan and Ken Wills)