The Federal Election Commission has ruled unanimously that members of Congress, candidates and party leaders may not solicit unlimited funds for so-called super PACs. Officially known as "independent expenditure-only political committees," super PACs are independent organizations that collect funds — including from unions and corporations — for election-related advocacy. As the 2012 presidential campaign approaches, a negative ad about President Obama or some Republican candidate is as likely to be mounted by a super PAC as by a candidate's official campaign.
The 6-0 vote by the commission prevents party officials, officeholders and candidates from raising more than a small amount — usually $5,000 — for super PACs. That severs somewhat the link between supposedly independent PACs and public officials.
This is important because donors would be under more pressure to contribute to a super PAC if the solicitation came from a public official or candidate. At the other end of the transaction, a public official might be more likely to grant access — or more — to donors to a super PAC that the official has promoted. This wouldn't be the worst example of incestuous relations between donors and elected officials. But allowing public officials to raise funds for super PACs creates — or cements — relationships between officeholders or candidates and super PAC contributors.