Does Super PAC Pay Aguilar Family Member’s Salary on Ground Campaign?

One of the very few limitations of an independent expenditure made by a Super PAC under the new rules for campaign finance after the Citizens United is that the Super PACs cannot coordinate their spending with political candidates’ campaigns. This legal barrier has been stretched paper thin by many campaigns, with campaign managers supposedly resigning, only in order to manage Super PACs that spend in sync with the official campaign strategy.

is she related to pete aguilarAnother level of evasion of the spirit of today’s fast and loose campaign finance regulations may be taking place in California’s 31st congressional district.

That’s where Democrat Pete Aguilar is running for Congress against incumbent Gary Miller. On Friday, an independent expenditure by a Super PAC called Restoring Our Community reported making three payment to a person named Cynthia Aguilar, for activities supporting the Pete Aguilar for Congress campaign:

” 1. Supports Candidate: Pete Aguilar
Office Sought: House of Representatives, California District 31
Payee: Cynthia Aguilar
Date Expended = 05/17/2012 Amount Expended = $504.00
Purpose: Estimated Salary for Ground Campaign (5/28/12 – 6/3/12)

2. Supports Candidate: Pete Aguilar
Office Sought: House of Representatives, California District 31
Payee: Cynthia Aguilar
Date Expended = 05/17/2012 Amount Expended = $288.00
Purpose: Estimated Salary for Ground Campaign (5/17/12 – 5/20/12)

3. Supports Candidate: Pete Aguilar
Office Sought: House of Representatives, California District 31
Payee: Cynthia Aguilar
Date Expended = 05/17/2012 Amount Expended = $504.00
Purpose: Estimated Salary for Ground Campaign (5/21/12 – 5/27/12)”

The obvious question is: Who is this Cynthia Aguilar? Is she related to Pete Aguilar? If so, what are the ethical and legal implications of a Super PAC making payments to a candidate’s family members for campaign activities? Can this kind of activity plausibly be categorized as having no coordination with the candidate’s official campaign organization?

It’s possible, of course, that there is no close family connection between Pete Aguilar and Cynthia Aguilar. Aguilar is a common family name in California, after all. If that’s the case, however, a public clarification from the Restoring Our Community Super PAC is in order.

Even if the two Aguilars are unconnected, however, reasonable doubts about coordination exist. Voters should be asking what this “ground campaign” created by the Restoring Our Community Super PAC is, and what relationship it bears to the official Pete Aguilar for Congress campaign. What were Cynthia Aguilar and the other “ground campaign” workers being paid to do, other than just being on the ground?

Political candidates and the Super PACs who support their campaigns do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Given the sudden rush of independent expenditures, and the thin reporting requirements enforced by the FEC, voters have the right to suspect the worst violations of trust.

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