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Watchdog groups want Justice Department to investigate Jeb Bush fundraising

via @lesleyclark

Two campaign finance groups are asking the Department of Justice to appoint a special, outside counsel to look at whether likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush and his Super PAC, Right to Rise, are knowingly violating campaign finance laws.

In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center say there are “powerful grounds” to believe that Bush and his fundraising arm are violating federal contribution limits and prohibitions on soft money. They charge that Bush and the fundraising group is “engaged in a scheme to allow unlimited contributions to be spent directly on behalf of the Bush campaign and thereby violate the candidate contribution limits enacted to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.”

The complaint is the second the groups have filed against the former Florida governor, who has not formally entered the race but is raising tens of millions of dollars at fundraisers across the country. A spokeswoman for Bush said he and his allies are “fully complying with the law in all activities Governor Bush is engaging in on the political front, and will continue to do so.”

The groups also filed a complaint with what they called the “dysfunctional Federal Election Commission,” noting that although the vote-locked commission, “does not enforce the campaign finance laws,” it wanted the complaint to be on record with the agency.

“If the FEC will not do its job, then it falls to the Department of Justice to enforce the law and investigate these apparent knowing and willful pattern of violations of the law by the individuals and groups associated with Jeb Bush’s shadow campaign,” said Campaign Legal Center executive director J. Gerald Hebert.

He said Bush’s demurrals that he’s not a declared candidate “does not exempt the former governor from obeying the law which prohibits candidates from raising and spending soft money.”

The letter notes that Bush himself has had trouble sticking with the narrative that he’s not an official candidate. In Nevada earlier this month, Bush said he was running for president, before quickly correcting himself.

"I'm running for president in 2016, and the focus is going to be about how we -- if I run -- how do you create high-sustained economic growth where more people have chance at earned success,” he told reporters.

--LESLEY CLARK, McClatchy Washington Bureau