A nonpartisan investigative journalism group uses Rob Portman as an example in a new report detailing how politicians use money donated to political action committees (PACs) for purposes other than those outlined in their mission.
The report, entitled “Political Inaction Committees,” by the Center for Public Integrity concludes PACs have wide discretion about how they can use money, despite promises to donors.
It states, “... there are few rules and no accepted norms for PAC spending, and a Center for Public Integrity analysis of more than 5,200 PACs shows a wildly disparate — and in some cases troubling — range of spending and budgeting policies among them. As Paul S. Ryan, program director and legal counsel at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, noted, donating to PACs is a 'contributor beware' proposition.”
In Portman's case, contributions to his “Ohio's Future” PAC are supposed to be used for creating methods for improving the state's economy and making it more competitive.
But the PAC has spent large amounts on items like renting private jets and leasing a private Cincinnati club for a “kickoff event.”
The report states:
After a dozen years in the U.S. House, a year as President George W. Bush’s U.S. trade representative, and a stint as head of Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, Republican Rob Portman, 54, is currently his party’s nominee for an open Ohio U.S. Senate seat. In addition to his campaign account, he can rely on Ohio’s Future PAC, his own leadership committee, to cover many of his costs.
The PAC’s website says its mission is “to develop creative solutions to Ohio’s economic challenges and support public policies that help make our state more competitive.” It enlists potential backers with a sales pitch that their donations “are helping recruit and support leaders who are focused on creating a better business environment in Ohio to expand jobs and opportunities.”
It has boosted at least one sector: private aviation. Out of about $364,000 in spending, Ohio’s Future PAC has used more than $28,000 on travel costs since the start of 2007, including more than $15,000 on private airplane rentals, fueling, piloting, and landing fees. These payments went to companies including Anchor Equipment Leasing LLC of Covington, Ky., and One Charlie Victor LLC and Aviation Specialists of Cincinnati. The aviation companies declined to disclose the itineraries or passengers manifests for these flights, information not apparent from the PAC’s FEC filings.
As Portman blasted Washington on his campaign Web site for record spending while “Ohio families are living under tight budgets, fighting to make ends meet,” his PAC used thousands of dollars on overhead, $2,434 to host a kickoff “welcome event” at a private Cincinnati club, and $455 for “PAC apparel.”
The PAC did, however, contribute about $140,000 to federal and non-federal campaign committees, about 39 percent of its disbursements.
Portman’s office did not respond to requests for comment. He did tell The Columbus Dispatch in 2008 that the PAC “helps me to keep my options open” for future campaigns, but that his sole focus that year was helping to elect McCain and other Republicans.
Other PACs also are mentioned in the report.
Portman, a Republican from Terrace Park, is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by George Voinovich, who is retiring. Portman's challenger is Democrat Lee Fisher.
The center's full report, written by Josh Israel, Aaron Mehta and , is available here.