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Watchdog Considers Legal Challenge to DeMint Super PAC

New political apparatus will allow the Greenville Senator to raise unlimited funds for hard-core conservative candidates — but is it legal?

Sen. Jim DeMint's small-donor fundraising group, the Senate Conservatives Fund, has been a highly successful machine for the Greenville Republican, helping to propel DeMint into the position of a major hard-line conservative Tea Party rainmaker and kingmaker.

The SCF has raised more than $17 million for DeMint's brand of hard-core conservatives.  

DeMint has cut his personal ties with SCF so that it can create a new offshoot — a "Super PAC" dubbed Senate Conservatives Action. This new Super PAC — which launched with a new website on Monday — will be able to accept unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals. As such, it will be able to spend at will in an effort to remake the Senate and help elect DeMint's brand of staunch conservatives.

But at least one nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog, the Campaign Legal Center, is saying "not so fast." The organization, senior counsel Tara Malloy told Patch, is looking into mounting a legal challenge against DeMint's Super PAC with the Federal Elections Commission. 

"The underlying concern that we have is that federal officeholders and candidates are forbidden from essentially raising soft money, unlimited money, in any way," Malloy said.

At stake is undue influence from DeMint, said Malloy. While DeMint has personally removed himself from the PAC, it still would be run by his operatives.

The move could significantly expand DeMint's reach and influence, political observers contend. 

“If we’re going to save this country, we have to elect more conservatives to the U.S. Senate,” DeMint said following the Super PAC's formation. “Making the Senate Conservatives Fund independent of me will allow it do even more to elect the kind of leaders we need to repeal Obamacare and balance the budget.”

DeMint's political play could be a matter of legal nuance, or it could be illegal. That's what the Campaign Legal Center is trying to determine as it decides whether to mount a challenge.

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."

Added Malloy: "With DeMint, what I think he's doing is cutting ties with his leadership PAC, which then creates his Super PAC. He may think that he's one degree removed from the Super PAC … but our concern is that this independence would be very much superficial. DeMint would still very much be linked to any donor to the Super PAC…. So the concern is that donors would be giving to the Super PAC with the eye to influence DeMint and curry favor with him — and do exactly what the [law] was set up to prevent."

See the Senate Conservative Fund's 2012 list of endorsed candidates.

Read more Patch coverage of Sen. Jim DeMint. 

Irene Hutchinson July 05, 2012 at 08:46 PM
The republican party unfortunately has become a disgrace to the US. They are an embarrasment world wide!
Heather July 05, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I agree Irene!
Shripathi Kamath July 05, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Is it legal? Yes. I do not understand why people continue to be shocked that tens of billionaires are pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars to buy political influence. I suspect that in the upcoming elections, Team Obama will raise about $700 million, and Team Romney over a billion. But that is the not the shocker. The shocker is how cheap it is to buy the Presidency. Think about it, George Soros or the Koch Bros. could just by themselves pour in $1 billion. A billion when they are worth several is the best investment they can make. Have their candidate win, and then in a couple of years, the contribution will be paid back several times over.
Dr. John July 06, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Irene, OK, so, the Republican party here in the United States of America is worse than the political parties in Iran ( Irene, do you know what rights women have there?), worse than China (where abortions are mandated and religious freedom is controled by the barrel of a gun), what about the political parties in these countries? North Korea, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Zimbabwe, Sudan If the political parties in those countries are too extreme how about the more moderate Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Italy political parties. What do the political parties of those countries have in common? The answer is liberalism, not conservatism. Do your homework and post with some common sense and not hormones next time.
reg July 06, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Yeah, liberal Portugal and Spain, which modified their penal systems and formats of criminal charges in such a liberal way that it now has reduced its drug trafficking and drug overdosing by 40%. And your juvenile response to the lady Irene with reference to "hormones" indicates your pseudo-machismo tendencies, ducktor - so come out of the closet. On your way out, you'll have to carry your commie flag with you, too, because in your criticism of those countries, you're forgetting your GOP heroes are trying to force the exact same social and labor principles upon the US.
Tonto July 06, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Lets not forget the gigantic mega billion union money laundering scam pouring money into politics buying democrat candidates :)
Irene Hutchinson July 06, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Dr. John, Unfortunately, people like you miss the point completely. THIS IS AMERICA! Not Portugal, Spain, Iran, etc. Thank you Reg for the response, I couldn't have said it better, but I think our words are wasted on morons like this, better yet, maybe Dr. John should MOVE to a more suitable place!
Terry July 06, 2012 at 01:53 PM
What people do not seem to understand is that A political action committee (PAC) raises and contributes legally limited sums to candidates for office. But (Super PACs) are not limited in how much money they can raise or spend during an election. Why not? They DO NOT contribute to candidates. No contribution, no quid pro quo with officeholders—hence no corruption. Super PACs are free speech by private groups who choose to spend their money on ads that may support or go against a candidate or a political issue. Super PACs fund free speech. They also inform voters and in my opinion are good for democracy. Money fosters speech but it does not decide an election the people do. If voters have more information about candidates and issues they make better decisions at the polls. Also super PAC ad are run on bias networks who will no longer be able to hold back valuable information from voters about candidates or issues.
Terry July 06, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Both Parties are a disgrace. All of Congress and the Presidents past and present have failed to do their jobs. We don't make appropriations bills, congress does. We don't write tax code, congress does, we don't vote to bailout politically connected friends congress does. We don't propose budgets the President does. We don't choose to go to war and spend massive amounts on military congress and the President do. All of them have been convicted of irresponsibility and incompetents by the problems this Country faces and our massive debt. It isn't Democrats against Republicans. It is we the 315 million people against the 536 who got us into this mess and fail to get us out. It is time we release every one of them from office asap.
samuel smith July 14, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Jim DeMint is such a phony "tea partier" when I discovered I was being attacked by Henry McMaster and Rick Quinn because Rick quinn had arranged some bgribe sources for the McMaster campaign when I asked Jim DeMint to find out why I was being attacked by this bribe taking communistic agent hiding behind the shield of SC Jim DeMint refused. When I reminded him he had taken an oath lof office to uphold and defend the "laws of this nation" he still chose to protect the bribe taking two bit crooks named Henry McMaster & Rick Quinn. The republican party can kiss it's voting getting days from me over. Since this nation is broke and we need to save money why not fire everyone of these two bit crooks that are so cowardly they would never take you into a court room where they would have to prove thgeir allegations although they litearally rape the citizen of their constitutional rights even revoking their licenses using the manufactured lies the crooks used to justify their communistic attack
Robert Kelly July 15, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Dr. John, totally inappropriate response. Irene expressed an opinion about the GOP which you might or might not agree with, but to go off the rails and compare ANYTHING in her comments to the list of theocracies and dictatorships you came up with is simply absurd. She commented on the GOP in the USA. Why would you compare the GOP to these other global atrocities? And then to add the final touch of accusing her response to be "hormones" demonstrates you don't have a single intelligent response to her initial post. I am not going to flag you as inappropriate, because I think people should see for themselves the intellectual vacuum that supports the GOP, but in truth you are more inappropriate than I was when I flagged myself for adding a nasty personal comment to another poster. Maybe you should flag yourself as inappropriate and see if you can still preserve some dignity.

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