- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s autobiography isn’t set for release until next month, but at least one buyer is already lining up to purchase lots of copies: the Scott Brown campaign.

The senator from Massachusetts wants to use cash from his own campaign fund to buy thousands of copies of “Against All Odds,” according to a letter made public Tuesday that Mr. Brown’s campaign sent to federal election regulators. The books, signed and unsigned, will be sent to donors and political backers as “thank you” gifts.

To avoid running afoul of federal campaign laws, the author-politician plans to forgo royalties from the books sold to his campaign or to donate his proceeds from those sales to charity, according to the Brown campaign’s attorney.

Federal law prohibits candidates from using campaign money in ways that benefit them personally.

Under his book deal, Mr. Brown will be paid unspecified royalties based on a percentage of the books sold and will get additional advances if the book meets certain sales targets after one year.

But Brown attorney David Winslow told the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that the campaign would comply with federal law since the publisher, Harper Collins, can withhold from Mr. Brown any royalties he would receive based on the number of books his campaign buys. Or, Mr. Winslow added, Mr. Brown could just donate any royalties from his campaign’s purchase to charity.

Mr. Winslow said in his FEC letter that Mr. Brown’s book deal isn’t different from “the usually and customary provisions typically prepared by the publisher in connection with similar nonfiction works.”

Caleb Burns, a campaign-finance lawyer with the Wiley Rien law firm in Washington, said the FEC generally has allowed political campaigns to use funds to buy and promote a politician’s book — just as long as the candidate doesn’t benefit personally. He said the options presented in Mr. Brown’s request are a “clear nod” to the FEC’s past rulings on the issue.

Less clear is how the FEC will view Mr. Brown’s plans to hold political fundraisers while he is on a book tour.

Campaigns generally have to foot the travel bill for candidate trips that involve political activity, unless the activity is incidental to the trip. In his letter, Mr. Winslow also asked the FEC whether there would be any restrictions on plans for political fundraising in cities where Mr. Brown is set to promote his book.

“The principal reason for Senator Brown to travel to a particular city is to promote the book and any attendance at a fundraiser would merely be ancillary to his presence in that area,” Mr. Winslow wrote.

Mr. Burns said the question could be thorny.

“The question is whether or not the cost of the travel can be borne by the publisher because of the prescheduled book event or whether the campaign has to pay,” he said. “The relevant FEC regulations are written broadly, and their application is not always clear.”

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, said the FEC probably would approve Mr. Brown’s request, but that it still could be problematic.

“The question is whether the purpose of the book tour is to sell the book or to raise money for the campaign,” she said. “If the tour was arranged to have stops where he might be able to raise the money, but not where he’d sell the most books, allowing the publisher to pay for the tour would be more questionable.”

Mr. Brown, who won a surprising victory in a special election in Massachusetts in January 2010 to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, is not the first politician to come to the FEC asking for advice on squaring book deals with campaign-finance law.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, got permission in 2004 for his campaign to buy hundreds of leftover copies of his book “In Praise of Public Life: The Honor and Purpose of Political Science,” after the publisher was about to dispose of its remaining inventory by offering steep discounts.

In 2006, the FEC said Rep. Kay Granger, Texas Republican, could use her campaign’s mailing list, personnel and website to promote her children’s book, since her profits were being donated to charity.

Mr. Winslow told the FEC that the Senate Select Committee on Ethics had reviewed and approved Mr. Brown’s book deal.

The book will be published around Feb. 20, and Mr. Brown is scheduled to go on the book tour during the Senate’s February recess.

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