The new Republican Super PAC got the green light from the Federal Election Commission on Thursday to skirt federal campaign-finance limits and to raise more money than ever before for the Republican presidential nominee and other party candidates.
"Its a victory because what we set out to do was to allow candidates and political-party leaders - in their official capacities as local, state or federal political party officials - to solicit funds for the Republican Super PAC," RNC member James Bopp Jr. told The Washington Times. "The FEC in its 6-0 advisory opinion approved our goal."
Some liberals didn't see it that way. They greeted the FEC action as a defeat for the new money-raising device and a victory for campaign-finance regulation.
Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said the FEC advisory "should put an end to any talk of federal candidates and officeholders, and national party officials, soliciting unlimited contributions for Super PACs."
Politico said the FEC "unanimously voted down a proposal that would have further empowered the independent political groups vowing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on hard-hitting campaign ads in the run-up to the 2012 election." National Journal called the FEC decision "a setback for so-called 'Super-PACs' on both sides of the aisle that had hoped to harness the star power of popular politicians for financial gain."
The basis of those reports was that FEC ruled, in response to a request by Democrat-led groups, that "covered individuals" - basically, lawmakers and party officials - could not personally solicit donations of more than $5,000 - the current limit on "hard money" contributions.
However, Mr. Bopp said, that's a fairly meaningless and technical restriction that does not hamper anything his group wants to do. A person can still give as much as he wants, as long as the candidate doesn't actually solicit amounts of more than $5,000.
"The only thing the FEC added that we did not propose is a meaningless requirement that candidates stipulate that they are not asking a person to give more than the federally set per-person $5,000 contribution limit and that the candidate is not soliciting unions or corporations."
The role of a respected Republican candidate in soliciting contributions to the RSPAC is that in doing so, he raises the profile of - and lends authenticity to - the Super PAC, letting major donors know that it is the safe and right place to donate as much as they wish.
"I am very pleased that the FEC has made it clear that it is legal for candidates and political party officials, in their official capacity, can solicit contributions for Super PAC," Mr. Bopp said. "Just a few weeks ago, the 'reformers' were screaming that such solicitations were illegal, and you go to jail. The first draft of the FEC advisory opinion also said it was illegal."
The FEC approved the solicitation as long as there is a disclaimer at the bottom saying that the candidate is only asking for contributions up to $5,000, Mr. Bopp said.
He noted that such a disclaimer would not legally limit what a donor can give a Super PAC.
"I guarantee you that the donor will know that he can give all he wants as a result of the candidate's solicitation," he added. "I endorsed this result in comments to the FEC on Wednesday. This enables the Republican Super PAC to do exactly what it wants to do."
Republicans saw the FEC action was a setback for President Obama and Democrats in general and a victory for Republican National Committee members Roger Villere of Louisiana, Mr. Bopp and Solomon Yue of Oregon.
The three men jointly founded the RSCAP as an independent expenditure "527" group that can raise unlimited sums to spend in advertising on behalf of candidates but without coordinating that spending with the candidates campaigns.
The purpose of the new RSPAC is to compete with the $1 billion in independent expenditures that President Obamas re-election drive is expected benefit from next year.
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