South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint’s new money-raising machine may be in trouble.
DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund was a small-donor based regular PAC, until DeMint decided he could earn significantly more by “cutting formal ties” and transforming it into a super PAC. The new Senate Conservatives Fund can accept unlimited donations while just barely maintaining the façade of independence.
Under the rules, DeMint can not ask for money himself, though he can appear at PAC events, including fundraisers. And despite his technical removal from the PAC, big-time donors will still know that it's DeMint's Super PAC, critics contend.
"[Federal officeholders] are prohibited from hosting unlimited amounts of money for other groups. They are forbidden from establishing committees that take in unlimited amounts, and so forth," Malloy said. "And it would seem that DeMint's planned Super Pac would violate this strict prohibition on federal officeholders and candidates in the soft money business."
This blatant dismissal of the spirit of the law raised eyebrows at the Campaign Legal Center, which is looking into a legal challenge against DeMint’s super PAC. Despite DeMint’s move to personally distance himself from the super PAC, his operatives run it, and big donors would undoubtedly continue to associate the senator with his super PAC, allowing them to curry favor through unlimited donations.
We’ll be watching as this potential legal challenge moves ahead. But with or without a court ruling, the implication is clear: Sitting senators getting involved with super PACs is a bad harbinger of future abuses in the post-Citizens United era, and it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable scandals are first revealed.