WASHINGTON -- House Republicans will soon have another big money vehicle supporting them. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that can raise and spend unlimited funds, will launch on Nov. 2 as the only independent group with the sole goal of retaining and expanding the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
Former Sen. Norm Coleman will chair the group, and Brian Walsh, president of the American Action Network, will serve as president of the PAC. The board of directors includes some major fundraising names in Republican Washington: former congressman and current lobbyist Vin Weber, former presidential adviser and current businessman Fred Malek, and former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman and current lobbyist Tom Reynolds.
"The Congressional Leadership Fund is an opportunity for center-right voices throughout America to support our House Republican majority," Malek said in a statement announcing the group's formation.
Terry Holt, a spokesman for the group and former spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), explained further to The Huffington Post: "The idea here is to leverage the political and fundraising support that there is for the Republican majority in the House and to get the resources it's going to take to defend against the other outside special interests that are intent on wresting control from the Republican majority and putting the House back in the hands of Nancy Pelosi."
The new PAC has invited all of the major members of the House Republican majority to attend a Nov. 2 launch event -- including Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam (Ill.), Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), chairman of the House Republican Leadership, and Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
"We'll have a very good turnout," Holt said.
Ties between the new PAC and the American Action Network don't end with their shared president. The super PAC's leadership team is composed entirely of officials and board members from the latter group, a conservative nonprofit that has been very politically active in recent elections. It spent over $8 million in the 2010 midterm elections on independent expenditures and electioneering communications to help elect Republican candidates to the House and Senate.
Holt explained that this experience will help the new group hit the ground running. "Brian Walsh, Sen. Coleman and the folks affiliated with CLF are seasoned and effective political figures, and their intent is to bring all of that to bear in defense of the House majority," he said.
The group will operate much like the House Majority PAC, a super PAC that aims to win back the House majority for the Democrats.
Moreover, its announcement comes on the heels of the creation of another Republican super PAC, which will be run by John Murray, the now-former deputy chief of staff to Cantor. The latter PAC is modeled on Cantor's Young Guns program to support conservative lawmakers and challengers in their elections. Murray is expected to attend the Congressional Leadership Fund launch.
Super PACs were born after two court rulings -- most notably the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission -- opened the door to unlimited contributions from corporation and unions to independent groups to be spent on elections. Since then, the FEC has undone restrictions on how lawmakers and candidates can interact with these new outside groups. Technically, lawmakers, candidates and party organizations are not allowed to coordinate with independent groups. The FEC, however, held earlier this year that candidates could raise funds and appear at events for a super PAC so long as the candidates only ask for a maximum of $5,000 -- the upper limit under the rules that govern candidates.
On Wednesday, the FEC received a request for an opinion from the Republican Party-linked super PAC American Crossroads seeking permission to feature candidates in its advertisements. The request notes that the Nebraska Democratic Party has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads featuring Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) speaking to the camera. If the FEC were to allow this type of activity or to deadlock on the issue, groups like the Congressional Leadership Fund and the House Majority PAC would gain another tool in their belts. And the drift since the Citizens United decision of independent groups becoming more and more connected to the parties and candidate committees would continue.
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