Does Republicans For Choice PAC Actually Support Any Republicans For Choice?

Rachel Larris

The Center for Public Integrity has very interesting report on the Republicans For Choice PAC. According to their research most of the money raised by the PAC has gone to two companies controlled by the PAC's founder and chairwoman Ann E. W. Stone and very little to pro-choice Republican candidates for office.

The Center for Public Integrity has very interesting report
on the Republicans For Choice PAC. According to their research most of the
money raised by the PAC has gone to two companies controlled by the PAC’s founder
and chairwoman Ann E. W. Stone and very little to pro-choice Republican
candidates for office.

Since the PAC’s formation in 1990, documents show that
Republicans for Choice has raised and spent more than $5.5 million. But a
Center for Public Integrity analysis of the PAC’s more recent filings – along
with data from CQ MoneyLine, which tracks political giving – reveals that over
the past decade less than five percent of the committee’s spending has gone to
political candidates, other political committees, or independent expenditures.
Since 2005, just about one-half of one percent of the PAC’s nearly $1 million
in spending has gone to federal or state campaigns, according to a review of
records.

Center for Public Integrity researchers Josh Israel and
Aaron Mehta
found that instead of using funds to donate to the campaigns of
federal candidates —  the raison d’etre for
most PACs — most of the money raised by Republicans for Choice was paid out to
Ann Stone and to two firms owned by her, Capstone Lists, a direct-marketing company
and the Stone Group, a political consulting firm.

Dating back to the beginning of 2005, about 69 percent of
the $967,108 spent by the group has gone to those three entities. Both
companies and the PAC, along with the not-yet-built National Women’s History
Museum (Stone is senior vice president), share space in an Alexandria office
building. Though the four entities list different suite numbers on
correspondence, filings, and the building’s occupant directory, the four Stone
groups share a second-floor office with a door marked "250-260."

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Republicans for Choice pays thousands of dollars each
year for office, equipment, and list rental to Capstone Lists. The Stone
Group’s services are retained for the PAC’s accounting, mailing production, and
website updates (though www.republicansforchoice.com contains numerous
out-of-date and under construction pages).

Stone herself received nearly $250,000 since the start of
2001 as reimbursements for her "travel and entertainment," "automobile
maintenance repairs," phone, tires, gasoline, and various other expenses.

Expenses
that apparently included covering Stone’s parking tickets in Alexandria, Va and
Washington, DC, which Stone at least says she didn’t attempt to hide in
expense reports.

Stone
defends the PAC’s expenditures saying that because, unlike other PACs, they
have with no affiliated non-profit organization so RFC PAC has to cover all
administrative functions giving them a higher overhead than other PACs, "which distorts
the percentages of how our money is spent under our reporting," she is quoted
as saying
.

Joseph Birkenstock, a former chief counsel to the
Democratic National Committee and an attorney at Caplin & Drysdale, told
the Center that political action committees often have high overhead for their
first few years and that there is no set "best practice." But, after more than
18 years of operation, "anything of this scale – [more than] two-thirds of
receipts going to overhead – certainly strikes me as a pretty large
percentage."

The
Center for Public Integrity points out that if supporting a pro-choice agenda is the goal of the PAC some of its support to candidates seems rather lackluster. In 2006, for example, the RFC PAC highlighted seven
Republican incumbents that were in danger of losing reelection; Nancy Johnson, Deb Pryce, Sue Kelly, Chris Shays, Rob
Simmons, John Sweeney and Lincoln Chafee. The PAC could
have contributed up to $10,000 per candidate per cycle between the primary and
general elections, and had the money on hand, but only gave $1,000 to two of
the candidates. Five of the seven pro-choice Republicans lost their bid for
reelection, a fact that researchers Israel and Mehta, point out that
might have made a difference in the recent House healthcare reform fight.

The
Center for Public Integrity report’s doesn’t not say there was anything illegal in the RFC PAC’s
actions, but donors may want to consider whether they want to continue to contribute
to a PAC that seems to be channeling money back to its founder.

Calls
and emails to the office of Republicans For Choice PAC for comment on this
story were not returned by the time of publication.

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