If we didn't think campaign finance law was confusing before this morning, well, we do now.
At 5 a.m. we posted "The $4.2 Million Question," explaining that Bill White could transfer over all of the money he'd raised in his U.S. Senate campaign to his nascent run for Governor. We quoted four different sources saying essentially the same thing: that nothing prevented the Houston mayor from accessing every dollar originally contributed for a federal race for a state race, and that he wouldn't have to ask his donors for permission to do so. The experts we quoted — including a Republican political consultant who's worked with Kay Bailey Hutchison, who recently drained as much of her federal campaign coffers as the law would allow for her own governor's race — didn't hesitate to offer the point of view that became the basis for our story.
A few of them were wrong, though Tim Sorrells, the deputy general counsel of the Texas Ethics Commission, referred us to the federal rules. It turns out that there are some limitations on which contributions White can transfer, as you'll read in the corrected version of the story we just posted. The reason we know this — the reason we felt we needed to re-report it, and then make changes — is because we got an e-mail at around 8 a.m. from a Perry loyalist who complained we hadn't explained the law correctly. Calls to the FEC and others confirmed that he was right, so we rewrote the original story to reflect a better understanding of what's what. Long story short, it turns out that White can't lay hands on about $1 million that would be have to be returned and donated again, for a governor's race, if he wants to spend for that purpose. That still gives him at least $3 million to play with, or more than 70 percent of what he's raised to date. Of course, that doesn't count any money he's brought in since September 30, the last campaign contribution filing deadline.
I wish we'd gotten it exactly right the first time, but we're going to make the occasional mistake. What I can promise you is, we're always going to cop to it, and we're always going to fix it. And then we're going to move on.