Huntsman Sr. backs son's campaign through a super PAC
Huntsman Sr.'s contributions to "Our Destiny" may diminish the organization's neutrality
February 14, 2012, 9:15 pm · Updated February 16, 2012, 11:57 pm·
Jon Huntsman Sr.’s financial backing of his son’s presidential bid has laid bare concerns of potential coordination between super PACs and presidential candidates.
Huntsman Sr. gave almost $1.9 million to the Our Destiny political action committee, which spent significant amounts of money on advertisements supporting Huntsman Jr.’s run.
This sum represents more than 70 percent of the $2.68 million Our Destiny raised in all, according to recently released Federal Elections Commission filings.
Our Destiny is a type of organization know as a “super PAC,” a recent creation that can raise unlimited funds from corporations, unions and individuals to influence political elections. In turn, super PACs are barred from coordinating their expenditures with candidates’ campaigns.
“The law is that the super PAC must be independent of the candidate,” former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer said in December, according to NBC News’ First Read. “I mean I have a big imagination but I just can’t imagine that father and son don’t talk.”
Huntsman Jr. has repeatedly denied discussing campaign strategy or Our Destiny with his father, which experts say is entirely plausible.
“Other super PACs have been founded by individuals who were close aides of the candidates,” Communications professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson wrote in an email. “If the candidates can avoid conversations about the strategy behind or content of super PAC ads with former aides, I assume a son can avoid such conversations with a father as well.”
Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, added that Huntsman Sr.’s contributions to Our Destiny were similar to a candidate self-financing his or her campaign. “Candidates also contribute to their own campaigns,” she wrote. “Not a big difference between that move and a family member funding a super PAC … It would be more noteworthy if a wealthy family did not fund efforts to elect a family member.”
Huntsman Sr., who graduated from Wharton in 1959 and after whom Huntsman Hall is named, is just one prominent Penn alum supporting Huntsman Jr., who graduated from the College in 1987.
Another distinguished Penn alum who contributed to Our Destiny is 1957 Wharton graduate Nicholas Taubman, a businessman and former United States Ambassador to Romania.
Taubman gave $50,000 to the super PAC in October.
“I thought he was the best man for president,” Taubman said of Huntsman Jr. “He has a broad knowledge of how to run a government … After all, he went to the University of Pennsylvania. He had to be a good guy.”
Taubman predicted that super PACs will have a “very large effect on all campaigns, particularly on the Republican side,” which generally has more wealthy and corporate donors than the Democratic side.
Because Democrats tend to have the backing of labor unions and other groups that can also contribute to super PACs, “that makes the playing field level,” he said.
Taubman also said he has no qualms about Huntsman Sr.’s significant contributions to Our Destiny.
After all, he argued, “John Kennedy’s father financed his whole campaign.”