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Published — March 3, 2015 Updated — Today at 5:45 pm EST

Top senators, lobbyists to help Ed Gillespie recoup lost money

GOP candidate pumped personal cash into failed U.S. Senate bid — and wants it back

Introduction

If you’re going to lose a U.S. Senate election and find yourself nearly $1 million in debt after the bruising campaign, it helps to be Ed Gillespie.

Some of the nation’s top Republicans and corporate political influencers will gather Monday night and unite behind the common goal of helping Gillespie — already an extraordinarily wealthy man — recoup at least some of his lost riches.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are scheduled to appear at the “campaign debt retirement reception” at the offices of the lobbying shop BGR Group, according to an invitation obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor who leads BGR Group, is hosting the confab along with firm executives Lanny Griffith, Ed Rogers and Bob Wood.

Other “host committee” members include:

  • Kirk Blalock, a lobbyist at Fierce Government Relations whose several dozen clients include Apple Inc., JPMorgan Chase and Co. and the oil company BP
  • Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
  • Brian McCormack, the Edison Electric Institute’s vice president for political and external affairs
  • Lobbyist David Hobbs of the Hobbs Group, whose clients include Comcast Corp., Honeywell International and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association

As of Dec. 31, Gillespie’s campaign committee, which had less than $20,000 in its coffer, owed its namesake candidate $990,000 — money Gillespie personally loaned the committee, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Gillespie found himself pouring huge amounts of money into his campaign largely because his moneyed friends didn’t donate nearly as much to help Gillespie as they could have through free-spending vehicles like super PACs and “social welfare” nonprofits.

And now, it appears, Gillespie’s friends and financiers will only be able to help him reclaim a portion of his cash.

That’s because federal law states that after Election Day, a candidate’s campaign may not repay loans in excess of $250,000 that the candidate himself or herself made to the campaign.

The FEC noted as much in a letter to Gillespie’s campaign on Feb. 25 and has previously issued related debt repayment rulings.

Gillespie’s options?

He could challenge the constitutionality of the debt retirement law in federal court. Or, he could just say goodbye to the three-quarters of a million dollars.

John Selph, Gillespie’s campaign treasurer, said he wasn’t authorized to speak on behalf of the committee. He referred questions to campaign manager Chris Leavitt, who could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday .

Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and political consultant who co-founded the conservative super PAC American Crossroads, certainly had money to spare his campaign, which in defeat made a surprisingly strong showing against incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

A mandatory personal financial disclosure Gillespie made with the U.S. Senate in September stated he earned more than $3 million in non-investment income and owned millions of dollars worth of real estate, stocks and other investments.

Carrie Levine contributed to this report

Read more in Federal Politics

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