FEC allows Club to go after Specter donors

Donors upset with Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Pa.) decision to bolt the Republican Party earlier this year will have the opportunity to get their money back, thanks to a Federal Election Commission decision issued Thursday.

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The decision will allow the Club for Growth, a group that has long made life difficult for Specter, to contact donors to Specter's campaign. The Club will inform those donors about Specter's party switch and his public pledge to give refunds to any donor who asks for one.

Ordinarily, federal election law prohibits using information contained in reports, including names or addresses, to contact potential donors for commercial or solicitation purposes. But, the commission found, since the Club and its affiliated political action committee will not be soliciting funds, it would not violate campaign law.

“Sen. Specter continues to face doubts about his loyalties, and I expect many of his donors will want their money back,” Club executive director David Keating said in a statement reacting to the opinion. “We hope to make it a little easier by informing them of [Specter's] policy and providing a preprinted letter and envelope to request a refund.”

Specter, who faces spirited competition from Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.) in the Democratic primary and from ex-Rep. Pat Toomey (R) should he make it to the general election, has had early success raising money. He ended the second quarter, on June 30, with just more than $7.5 million in the bank after raising $3 million in three months.

The senator's party switch has had a small impact already on his finances. Specter's campaign returned $126,000 in individual donations in the second quarter, following his April 28 change in parties.

Specter has also given back $97,000 to other political committees, largely those affiliated with his former colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle. He has returned checks to PACs controlled by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), among others.

It is unclear how effective the Club's outreach to donors will be, but Specter did receive the bulk of his money from donors who gave to a Republican senator. At the end of the first quarter, four weeks before Specter jumped the GOP ship, he reported $5.8 million in the bank.

Specter's campaign declined to comment for this article.

Still, even if he has to give back a large amount of money, Specter will not go hungry, thanks to his Democratic allies. President Barack Obama is set to hold a Sept. 15 fundraiser for Specter in Philadelphia, an event at which organizers hope to raise $2.5 million.

Later this fall, Vice President Joe Biden will host a fundraiser in the western part of the Keystone State, though details have yet to be worked out.

Neither Sestak nor Toomey is showing signs of easing up on his rival. Sestak ended the second quarter with $4.25 million in the bank, while Toomey had $1.1 million to play with.