How to Raise Money for a Campaign and Not Get Yourself Indicted


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I’ve got a lot of political friends. I’ve got them in Pennsylvania. I’ve got them in New Jersey. I’ve got them in New York. I’ve got them in Iowa. I’ve got them in Washington, D.C. I could go on. It seems that a few people I’ve met before have had some recent legal problems stemming from political money. If you read the news, you come to one of two conclusions- either there are a ton of crooks in politics, or it’s way too easy to get indicted. You take your pick, there’s a kernel of truth to both.

There are a couple of basic rules that can keep you out of jail though, the real basics. If you’re doing these things, you probably aren’t violating any laws that I can think of.

  1. Offer nothing for a contribution. If you call someone to ask them for money, you don’t agree to do a damn thing on the call for them. You can tell them your basic message and positions, and then stop. Don’t agree to help their business get business. Don’t agree to push the spending bill with their contract in there. Agree to nothing. You can help someone legislatively, and you can take contributions, but you can’t do both together. That’s a quid pro quo. That gets you popped by law enforcement.
  2. Do not use your campaign account as an ATM. Let me repeat that- don’t use your campaign account as an ATM. Do not pay for your kid to go to college out of there. Do not go on vacation out of there. Do not buy cars out of there. Don’t pay people for no-work jobs out of there. It’s really simple, use your campaign money for your campaign, and to contribute to people you support. That money isn’t for you.
  3. Do not threaten someone over a donation. Yeah, just like you can’t offer people stuff for a donation, you can’t threaten them with painful outcomes if they don’t write you a check. Do not threaten them that you will pull their state contract if they don’t contribute. This is a real no-no.
  4. Just report everything you do with the accounts. Seriously, you can’t hide it anyway, so just report all the money you get, and all the money you spend. Don’t have “accounting errors” because you’re embarrassed by something in there. You’ll be even more embarrassed by your mug shot.
  5. Don’t cash shady checks. Don’t do it, ever. The Feds basically can nail you for wire or mail fraud pretty easily. People go down in indictments just because they mindlessly take money that was illegal. Good and decent people go down over this.

I heard the best statement ever on this a couple days ago, and it’s a rule that everyone should still follow “so-and-so (i’m redacting the name) didn’t hire so-and-so (also redacting the name) because first off he didn’t like the guy, and second off he thought he was a crook.” The person who didn’t do the hiring did lose, but they’re not in jail right now. I guess they got it right.

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