Even as presidential candidates and congressional committees leak word of their traditional fundraising efforts, Republican leaders Thursday announced formation of a new "super PAC" effort that can raise unlimited amounts from well-heeled donors to back GOP congressional campaigns.
The new Congressional Leadership Fund announced its formation with an all-star board of directors and plans for a kickoff fundraiser Nov. 2 that is scheduled to include as "special guests" House Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the Republican congressional leadership team. The new chairman of the fund's board of directors, Norm Coleman, is a former senator from Minnesota who last year formed American Action Network, a GOP-aligned outside group. Coleman is an experienced fundraiser and has already signed on as an advisor to presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Middle East policy and other matters.
Super PACs -- now a staple of presidential races -- are increasingly making their mark on Capitol Hill. House Democrats have formed similar organizations to raise funds for congressional candidates, and last week an aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced that he too was starting an outside group. Most of these efforts are set to be active in a number of congressional races, but at least one group has formed to advocate for a single candidate. The Deseret News reported last month that supporters of Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch have organized the Strong Utah PAC to help the longtime senator fend off a primary challenge from the party's tea party flank.
For the Record, 8:26 p.m. Oct. 13: An earlier version of this post listed Eric Cantor as the House majority whip. He is the majority leader.
All this produces hand-wringing from reform advocates who say the entire campaign-finance regulatory system is sinking, along with the influence of political parties. A spokesman for the new GOP group, Terry Holt, said in an interview Thursday that the traditional party committees that raise funds for congressional candidates "are still the most important apparatus for winning an election. The Leadership Fund complements their work."
He said establishing the fund was important so that Republicans can compete against outside Democratic Party-oriented groups, such as labor unions and ACORN.