FEC proposes rule to allow federal officeholders, candidates to appear at Super PAC fundraisers


In response to a request by a pair of Democratic Super PACs, the Federal Election Commission has proposed a new rule that would allow members of Congress, federal candidates and national political party officials to appear and speak at fundraisers for independent expenditure-only committees, or Super PACs, but would bar them from asking corporations, labor unions or individuals for the unlimited contributions that fueled the spending of these outside groups in the 2010 election cycle.

The FEC issued the proposed rule, which will be considered at a commission meeting on June 30, after James Bopp Jr., the conservative lawyer who represented Citizens United in its battle with the FEC, announced that a new organization he co-founded, the Republican Super PAC, would rely on state and national party officials and candidates to raise money for the group. A pair of Democratic independent expenditure-only committees, the Majority PAC and the House Majority PAC, asked the FEC to clarify whether federal candidates and party officials could solicit these funds.

While the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, enacted in 2002, bars federal candidates and national party officials from raising "soft money," the act did not address fundraising for Super PACs, which did not come into existence until a pair of court rulings in the Citizens United and SpeechNow.org cases opened the door to groups to influence elections by raising unlimited funds from groups barred from contributing directly to federal candidates.

The Center for Responsive Politics reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., solicited on behalf of the Majority PAC, which focuses on supporting Democratic Senate candidates. Reid's solicitation contained a disclaimer in small type at the bottom: "Senator Reid is only asking for a donation of up to $5,000 from individuals and federal PACs. He is not asking for contributions from corporations, labor unions or other federally prohibited sources."