House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, shown at a news conference last month… (Getty Images )
A senior advisor to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is leaving his federal post to open a "super PAC" that can raise unlimited amounts from individuals and corporations to back conservative Republican candidates and causes.
The move by John Murray, who served as Cantor's deputy chief of staff, is another indication that congressional leaders are looking to raise fund through super PACs, new, technically independent political organizations that were spawned as a result of a controversial Supreme Court decision in 2010.
In an interview Wednesday, Murray confirmed that the new super PAC fundraising is intended to support efforts such as the "Young Guns" program that was launched last year by Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California and others to recruit "conservative, pro-growth pro-business candidates."
The new PAC is aimed at not only helping to build a broader base of GOP candidates but may rally public support for conservative initiatives in Congress. There has been increasing chatter lately about Cantor being a GOP vice presidential nominee, but there is apparently no connection between those rumors and the formation of the new super PAC.
Traditionally, members of Congress raise money for their campaigns through personal campaign accounts. Senior members then started "leadership PACs" that could distribute campaign funds to allied candidates. The super PACs may be rewriting the playbook of congressional fundraising. Under the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision, independent political committees are permitted to collect unlimited funds from unions, corporations or individuals, though the contributions must be disclosed in biannual filings with the FEC. Spending by these political action committees cannot be coordinated with official candidate campaigns.
"This super PAC is completely independent of anything Eric Cantor or any other member is doing," Murray said. "Its purpose is to support candidates and policies that are modeled after the young guns movement."
Murray said the new super PAC hasn't yet started but that he hopes to open a bank account soon. Democrats have also launched a super PAC to support House candidates.
Campaign finance reform advocate Fred Wertheimer said the news is disturbing.
“A super PAC to support a movement being led by key House Republican leaders opens the door wide to influence-buying with these leaders by allowing donors to give corrupting, unlimited campaign contributions to directly support the efforts of the House leaders,” he said. “This year represents the first time since 1974 that influence-seeking donors will be able to provide unlimited campaign contributions to directly support the efforts of federal officeholders.”