In an unusual show of unanimity, the Federal Election Commission has rejected a bid by conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr. to directly challenge the longstanding ban on soft money fundraising by federal officials.
Democrats running their own super PACs had asked the Federal Election Commission whether such PACs could rely on Members of Congress and national party officials to raise unlimited, unregulated money, as Bopp had said he intended.In a 6-0 ruling, the FEC delivered an emphatic, “No.” At a time when campaign finance regulations have been rolled back on several fronts, the FEC action signaled that the 2002 soft money ban, at least, stands pat. The ruling came as something of a rebuke to Bopp, who has led the charge to overturn the campaign finance rules and had announced plans to have elected officials raise soft money for his so-called Republican Super PAC.
“The FEC came down pretty clearly that these types of unlimited, soft money solicitations were not permitted,” said Tara Malloy, associate legal counsel for The Campaign Legal Center.
But the FEC did clear the way for federal officials such as lawmakers and party leaders to collect hard (regulated) money for super PACs. An outgrowth of the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, such PACs may raise unlimited corporate and union funds as long they fully disclose their spending and don’t coordinate with candidates.The FEC action means lawmakers and party officials may collect money for super PACs as long as they stick within the $5,000 federal PAC contribution limit and don’t go after prohibited corporate and union treasury funds. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are already soliciting hard money for two leading Democratic super PACs: Majority PAC and House Majority PAC, which had brought the request to the FEC.
The group aims to go head-to-head with Priorities USA Action, a similar super PAC led by former White House aides in support of President Obama. But Restore Our Future PAC could be used to go after other Republicans if necessary in the party’s primary season, those familiar with the operation said.
The development provides further evidence that Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is shaping up as the candidate to beat in the GOP money race, and underscores the extensive role that well-funded outside groups are likely to play in the 2012 election. Restore Our Future PAC appears to be the first super PAC to form specifically in favor of one of the presidential contenders.