Make room for a new zombie campaign on the block.
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid left Washington in January 2017 and his campaign days are well behind him. Yet, the Nevada Democrat’s campaign account is still active, alive and spending 30 months later, including some questionable disbursements to a liberal political blog and to his former executive director of the committee.
Reid has been able to keep his campaign account active because of a loophole in federal law that suggests candidates close their campaign accounts after their campaigning is over — but doesn’t actually mandate it. The law simply says candidates should only spend the funds on campaigning, donations to other political committees, contributions to nonprofits or refunds to donors.
While many of Reid’s recent disbursements appear to be legal donations to charities or fellow Democratic candidates, others raise red flags.
In March 2019, his campaign reported sending a $1,000 donation to The Daily Kos, a website that aggregates and publishes left-leaning articles. The site is not an IRS-recognized 501(c) organization.
The Daily Kos is affiliated with an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) foundation, but Reid’s federal filing did not mention the foundation.
Reid also reported making $7,000 in payments over the last year to a company owned by the campaign’s former executive director for “winddown consulting.”
However, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) guidelines indicate candidates should take no more than six months to wind down their campaign affairs after they leave office, which for Reid, would have been July 2018. He paid the firm $5,000 for winddown consulting during that period, so it’s not clear why the consulting was necessary more than a year later.
The questionable expenditures were all reported publicly by Reid’s campaign, but as a Tampa Bay Times/WTSP-TV investigation revealed last year, the FEC had never bothered to review filings made by “zombie campaigns.”
The series exposed more than 100 former House, Senate and presidential candidates — from both parties — exploiting loopholes in federal law to keep their campaigns spending years after they were done campaigning.
The Times/WTSP collaboration prompted the FEC to change the way it reviews the filings of former candidates, and the agency has opened dozens of inquiries this year into questionable zombie campaigns spending. A bipartisan bill, which proposes closing the loopholes even more, is awaiting a hearing in the Committee on House Administration.
Reid spent much of his time since leaving Congress in January 2017 battling pancreatic cancer, announcing in early 2019 the cancer was in remission. As his health has rebounded, he has also grown more vocal on national political issues such as climate change and President Trump. However, he has made no indication he might return to public office.
Neither the treasurer for Reid’s campaign nor its former executive director-turned-consultant returned requests for comment.