A D.C. watchdog is accusing a newly formed Super PAC supporting Herman Cain of a pretty basic violation of campaign finance law: using Cain’s name in its own name despite claiming to be an independent group.
Donald Simon, an attorney for the campaign-finance reform group Democracy 21, said the newly formed Super PAC Americans For Herman Cain is in direct violation of a Federal Election Commission rule preventing PACs that are unaffiliated with any particular campaign from using candidates’ names in their own name.
According to a disclaimer at the end of a pro-Cain web ad on the PAC’s website titled “A Real Choice”, the PAC registered with the FEC as a “non-connected political committee” that “supports the federal candidacy of Herman Cain for President” but is not “authorized by any candidate committee.”
The FEC has strong laws on its books that bar independent groups from coordinating their activity with the candidates of their choice. Adherence to those coordination laws have deteriorated in recent years, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of corporate and union money and gave rise to the Super PAC phenomenon. But most Super PACs so far haven’t violated even the veneer of the law by naming themselves after the candidate they’re supporting.
Democracy 21 points out that federal campaign finance laws state that “in the case of any political committee which is not an authorized committee, such political committee shall not include the name of any candidate in its name.”
A TPM search of the FEC’s electronic filing database produced no filing results for Americans for Herman Cain, and there is no contact information listed on the website except a Washington, D.C. address.
But a Politico article quotes Jordan Gehrke, who worked on Republican Sharron Angle’s failed Nevada Senate bid last year, as saying he filed the organizational paperwork earlier this week.
The website launched just minutes before Tuesday night’s CNN debate with an email fundraising solicitation sent to a Tea Party list rented out to a variety of conservative groups, touting Cain’s “grassroots support” and strong poll numbers, and urging recipients to donate, Politico reported.
Gehrke and Cain’s spokesman did not immediately respond to an inquiry from TPM.