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Pence secures taxpayer funds for his defunct White House campaign

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP

Federal election regulators on Thursday authorized public matching funds for Mike Pence’s dormant White House campaign – acting on a request the former vice president’s campaign initially made in October, only weeks before he ended his short-lived bid for the Republican nomination.

The Federal Election Commission certified an initial payment of $100,000 to the campaign, which had more than $1.3 million in outstanding debts at the end of March, according to its most recent filing.

The taxpayer funds can go toward helping to pay off those bills and winding down any remaining campaign operations. A Pence aide did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment Thursday.

Pence’s request for public money, first disclosed in documents released by the FEC earlier this week, underscored the financial difficulties his campaign faced as he tried, unsuccessfully, to mount a primary bid against his onetime boss, former President Donald Trump. In all, Pence’s campaign raised about $5.3 million.

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Most major presidential candidates stopped seeking public, matching funds years ago – rather than comply with the program’s strict spending limits.

Democrat Martin O’Malley and the Green Party’s Jill Stein in 2016 were the last presidential contenders to receive the funds, according to the FEC’s data.

Disclosure rules

In a separate action, the agency on Thursday also agreed to start drafting rules that could ultimately withhold some donor information from the public if adopted. But given the pace of rule-making, no decision is likely before this year’s general election.

The commissioners did reject a proposal advocated by Commissioner Allen Dickerson, a Republican and Trump appointee, that would have established a new process to fast-track individual requests to mask the personal information of political contributors who claim they likely would face harassment or threats. Some election watchdog groups had opposed Dickerson’s measure.

Under federal law, federal campaigns and political action committees must disclose identifying information – including names, addresses and employers – of donors who contribute more than $200. And regulators require that fundraising platforms, such as WinRed and ActBlue, disclose those details for all contributors, regardless of the donation size.

Dickerson said the disclosure requirements date back to the FEC’s creation in the 1970s when campaign finance records were kept on paper in the commission’s office. “Now, that information is available to anyone, instantly and forever, on the internet,” he said.

Courts have agreed to allow exceptions to disclosure rules. Most notably, the Supreme Court, during the Jim Crow era, exempted the NAACP from local and state mandates to disclose its members’ identities. And the FEC has acted in individual cases to redact some personal information from public filings when requested.

Although the panel rejected Dickerson’s proposal to adopt a new streamlined process to withhold personal information, some commissioners signaled they were open to further debate on how to balance the tension between transparency and personal privacy.

Commissioner Dara Lindenbaum, a Democrat appointed by President Joe Biden, said Congress should reconsider whether the street numbers and street names of donors’ addresses must be publicly disclosed.

“Consider a victim of domestic violence who retreats to the refuge of a childhood home or a family member’s residence, only for their abuser to locate them by searching their parents’ or other family members’ names on the commission’s website,” she said.

Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform with the Campaign Legal Center watchdog group, said his organization would have to closely examine any proposed changes to disclosure requirements and he would be concerned about new rules resulting “in a net loss of information about who’s spending on elections.”

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