Super PACs used to pretend they operated at arm’s length from the candidates they support.
Even before last week, no one seriously believed Super PACs were independent. But it was nearly impossible to prove they coordinated their activities with candidates. You had to be a fly on the wall. Or at least had to own good eavesdropping equipment.
In recent days, however, the notion that Super PACs are independent has been rendered a total farce.
President Obama, who once denounced Super PACs, said he would permit members of the cabinet and senior aides to appear and raise money at their fundraising events.
Not to be out-done, Republican presidential primary contender Mitt Romney proclaimed that he would allow senior aides to attend events held by “Restore Our Future,” the Romney Super PAC.
These cabinet members and advisors can ask donors for contributions of up to $2,500 per election, or up to $5,000 for the primary and general election.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that plans are being laid for members of Congress to appear at Super PAC fundraising events. So can presidential candidates be far behind?
Probably so, since the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has previously ruled that candidates can appear at Super PAC events. And they can raise money.
Super PACs became part of the vernacular and began dotting the electoral landscape after the U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in SpeechNow.Org v. FEC.
The legal theory was that as long as these PACs engaged only in independent spending, they could take contributions in unlimited amounts and spend as much as they like.
It turns out that theory was based on a faulty and extremely naïve premise.
To say that these groups are operating independently is preposterous on its face. Especially with the latest developments.