Posted: Sept. 20, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

At last. Someone who is up front about setting up a PAC.

When a new political action committee is called "Beau PAC," it takes away all of the guesswork about who is behind it.

Unlike, say, The Committee for a Better Future, more colloquially known as Jack PAC. It was set up as a nebulously-named political arm for Jack Markell, the Democratic governor back when he was the state treasurer.

Come to think of it, even the formal name of Jack PAC raised more questions than it answered. Was it Delaware's better future or Markell's better political future that was the crux of it?

There have also been a bunch of other PACs with pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain names, like LEAD PAC, created by Charlie Copeland, the Republican who used to be the state Senate minority leader and ran for lieutenant governor, and the Responsible Delaware PAC, the one from Colin Bonini, the Republican state senator who ran for treasurer.

All of it was murky stuff that took some digging to figure out. Not this new one.

Perhaps the French would be confused into thinking Beau PAC had something to do with the beautiful people, but no self-respecting Delawarean would.

This PAC was formed by Beau Biden, more formally Joseph Robinette Biden III, the Democratic attorney general and son of the vice president of the United States. No malarkey, as his father might clean up his language to say.

Beau PAC. It is what it is.

It should not come as a surprise that Biden wanted one. "PACs these days are sort of the standard course of business," said Molly Magarik, the political director for Beau PAC.

There is an obvious reason to have a PAC. Two words. Unlimited contributions.

Under state law, the maximum contribution that statewide candidates can collect from individuals for each election is $1,200, but PACs can take an unlimited amount. There are some restrictions on the way PACs can spend their money, but there are loopholes, too.

The all-time champion mega-contribution appears to be one for $190,000 that went to Bonini's PAC from North Star Campaign LLC, whose origins are as mysterious as the names of PACs typically are. How fitting is it, though, when something called North Star gives to a PAC that can take contributions where the sky is the limit?

Not that Biden had any trouble raising money the old-fashioned way. His campaign took in more than $1 million in contributions for his last race in 2010, even though the Republicans did not bother to put up a candidate. 

Beau PAC is still in its infancy, birthed in July with $15,000 from familiar Delaware names, according to campaign finance records. Contributions of $5,000 a piece came in from Bart Dalton, a lawyer who was once a chief deputy attorney general, and from Stuart and Suzanne Grant, the husband being a lawyer who is also a prime fund-raiser for the governor and the wife being a former investment executive who chairs the state's pension board.

As of Sept. 3, the closing date of the most recent campaign finance report, Beau PAC had raised another $30,000 and was left with $17,000 in its treasury after paying for travel expenses and an event that was something of its coming-out party at the Democratic national convention in Charlotte.

Beau PAC staged a reception at a Charlotte art gallery for about 200 people, no doubt enticed to attend by the expectation that Joe Biden would show up, too, and they could get in some quality hobnobbing time. He did, and they did.

Beau PAC scrupulously avoided taking sides in the Democratic primaries, but it intends to be helpful to the party hereafter, not to mention it would mean spreading good will on Biden's behalf.

"We are looking to make contributions to Democratic legislative candidates going forward," said Magarik, the political director.

The formation of a PAC is chiefly regarded in political circles as a sign of higher ambition, not that anything was otherwise expected for someone who is a second-term statewide official, who has the most famous political name in Delaware, who did a military tour in Iraq, and who has been traveling around the country and appearing on national TV to campaign for the presidential ticket.

But for what?

"We're actually focused on the re-elect in 2014," Magarik said.

As if anyone thinks Biden is stopping there. Amid the state's ongoing political chatter, the old quip about attorney generals is cropping up, namely, A-G stands for aspiring governor.

Mum is the word from the Biden camp. Magarik simply cited a favorite expression from Ted Kaufman, the Biden family's longstanding political adviser who was appointed to the Senate when Joe Biden became the vice president.

"As Senator Kaufman says so eloquently, life is what happens when you're planning for the future," Magarik said.

Beau PAC. It is what it is.