Los Angeles Times: New GOP ‘super PAC’ tests limits of campaign finance laws

Written by admin on May 17th, 2011

James Bopp Jr., one of the lawyers who brought the watershed Citizens United case before the Supreme Court is taking his fundraising techniques to a new level

Los Angeles Times

As an independent expenditure-only committee, the group can raise unlimited funds from individuals and corporations to advocate for or against candidates.  These “super PACs” are banned from coordinating with candidates or parties.

But in a twist, Republican Super PAC will rely on candidates, elected officials and state and national parties to be the group’s fundraisers, asking them to tell donors who want to give more than the federally limited contributions to direct additional funds to the PAC. The PAC would then use the money to campaign on behalf of the candidates or parties that solicited the funds

Despite the questions that raises about the PAC’s independence, Bopp said the tactic was “perfectly legal.”

“It’s a legal outlet to raise money,” Bopp said. “Even though [candidates] cannot participate in [the PAC’s] spending of money in any way, the people that run the super PAC will use it to help advance candidates that Republicans support.”

Bopp created the PAC with two other members of the Republican National Committee, Roger Villere and Solomon Yue. They are presenting details of the project Wednesday to members of the committee, who are in Dallas for a party meeting.

Election law attorneys and campaign finance reform advocates said Bopp is treading onto legally shaky ground – a familiar position for the GOP attorney, one of the most zealous challengers of campaign finance restrictions.

A recent string of campaign finance court cases, including Citizens United, struck down parts of the landmark McCain-Feingold bill of 2002, which bans unlimited “soft money” contributions to political parties and prohibited federal officials and candidates from soliciting unrestricted funds.

The solicitation ban remains on the books, but now exists in a post-Citizens United gray zone.

Under McCain-Feingold, “a federal officeholder cannot solicit contributions in connection to federal elections unless the funds are subject to the limitations, prohibitions and reporting requirement of act,” said Lawrence Noble, former counsel to the Federal Election Commission.  “Now, contributions to independent expenditure committees are not subject to those limitations. That leaves the question of whether or not the federal officeholder is free to raise money for those committees.

“The FEC has not done anything to explain now what’s happened,” Noble added.  “We need someone to come out and interpret this.”

Bopp expressed no such uncertainty, opting not to seek an advisory opinion from the commission on the legality of his proposal.

“Money for a federal PAC is hard money. This is a federal PAC, so this is hard money,” Bopp said. “We don’t need to get permission of the FEC.”

 

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