Pataki has $1.6 million from Virginia PACs

Since the beginning of the year, former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) has raised substantial sums of money with state political action committees (PACs) registered in Virginia. He recently took a $250,000 donation from one of the original backers of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Bob Perry, CEO of the Houston real estate company Perry Homes and a well-known Republican donor, gave the quarter-million to Pataki’s 21st Century Freedom PAC about two weeks ago, bringing his total raised to more than $300,000 in April alone.

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Pataki has roughly $1.6 million on hand from his three Virginia PACs, according to the state campaign finance group, the Virginia Public Access Project. That is more than is in the lower-tier Republican 2008 White House candidates’ federal campaigns.

“Gov. Pataki’s fundraising is very impressive, particularly given he is no longer governor of New York and he is not running for president,” said Michael Toner, a former Federal Election Commission (FEC) chairman who now chairs the election law group at Bryan Cave.

“Governor Pataki has always indicated that he intends to remain active in the national debate and he will continue to use the PAC to support the issues and candidates around the nation that he believes will bring Americans together and move our nation forward,” said David Catalfamo, a Pataki spokesman.

Perry, a contributor linked to President Bush, has not donated to Pataki’s New York state campaigns since 1998, according to records compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

“Bob Perry and Governor Pataki have no connection other than their shared belief in conservative Republican policies and candidates,” said Catalfamo.

Perry is not the only Bush donor connected to Pataki. Hunshang Ansary, a Bush “pioneer” fundraiser, contributed $100,000 to the former governor’s Virginia PAC in March.

Though much of Pataki’s Virginia money, spread among his PACs, was transferred from his New York campaign account, the former governor raised approximately $450,000 for the 21st Century Freedom PAC in 2007’s first quarter.

“Pataki is clearly working hard to remain politically relevant,” said Toner.

Pataki’s federal PAC and some of his Virginia committees are headquartered at the same Alexandria, Va., address. Much of his spending has been on consultants for fundraising and strategic planning, according to federal and state records.

Pataki reportedly has presidential aspirations for 2008, but many believe he has already signaled that he will not run. The former governor closed his New Hampshire office this year and many of his aides have left with his permission to work for other presidential campaigns.

Pataki himself has joined the New York law firm Chadbourne & Park. John Cahill, his former chief of staff, also joined the firm.

Many Republican consultants inside and outside the Beltway were surprised by Pataki’s fundraising prowess. Some were shocked that he was still active.

“That is news to me,” said one New York Republican. “He had suspended his pursuit for the top spot.”

Another Republican strategist said of Pataki and 2008, “He has been kind of below the radar.”

Virginia is typically the site of early presidential buzz, thanks to its loose campaign finance laws. Disclosure of candidates’ donors is limited and there are no contribution limits. Consequently, many White House aspirants set up shop there years before their intended run.

“We operate on an honor system in an often dishonorable profession,” said Professor Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “He is permitted to do just about anything here in Virginia.”

Depending on federal and state campaign finance law, the former governor is limited in how he can use his Virginia PACs.
“He has to jump through a lot of legal hoops and run it by the lawyers and accountants, and maybe the FEC. It is not easy,” Sabato said of transferring the funds to a federal campaign.

Pataki could contribute money to accounts around the country in states with election rules similar to those in Virginia.
Pataki could also use the money to support candidates in Virginia. Virginia Republicans will be up for election in the state legislature this year.

The former New York governor plans to continue to raise funds, perhaps adding a wrinkle to the dynamics of the 2008 presidential election.