WASHINGTON -- Pizza mogul Herman Cain's recent rise in the polls has brought his candidacy greater attention and scrutiny from his Republican presidential primary rivals and the press. It's also brought him new support -- from Americans for Herman Cain, a super PAC formed to help Cain win the Republican nomination.
Founded by Jordan Gehrke, the former communications director and deputy campaign manager for Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, Americans for Herman Cain officially launched during Tuesday night's Republican debate in Nevada. The group states that it is paid for by the 999 Fund. Neither Americans for Herman Cain nor the 999 Fund have yet to register with the Federal Election Commission.
But the new PAC may already have a problem: The use of the candidate's name in the name of the organization may not be legal under campaign finance laws. Donald J. Simon, general counsel for Democracy 21, said via email that campaign finance laws work to bar independent political committees from including the name of a candidate in their name.
"Candidate-specific Super PACs have become a huge problem in this year's presidential campaign, and are being used as a way for a candidate's supporters to evade the limits on contributions to candidates," Simon said in a statement. "The use of a candidate's name in the name of the Super PAC takes this evasion even one step further, and crosses a clear line drawn in the law."
Super PACs are ostensibly independent political groups that can raise and spend unlimited money from corporations, unions and individuals in elections. They were created after two court rulings -- most notably the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC -- opened the door to corporate and union funding of electoral advertising. The Republican presidential primary has seen nearly every candidate receive help from a super PAC, often started by former associates, bringing into question the so-called independence of these groups.
Gehrke sent out an email Tuesday night to supporters announcing the formation of the super PAC. The email states, "Herman Cain has proven that he is a top-tier candidate. Now he needs a top-tier early state operation. We intend to provide reinforcements. We're going to do the basic 'blocking and tackling' Herman needs to win in early states. That means doing yard signs, identifying supporters, phone calls, doors knocked, 'Friend to Friend' cards, and 'Get Out the Vote' operations that can propel Herman Cain to victory in these primaries."
On Wednesday the group launched its first web advertisement, which attacks the current field for not being conservative enough or, in the case of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for being inept at talking. The ad begins with the question, "What if we didn't have to choose between the lesser of two evils this year?," accompanied by the visages of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Perry. The ad calls Romney the "father of ObamaCare" and asks whether Perry could win a debate against President Barack Obama.
The super PACs supporting Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) have also run ads. Another super PAC that supports Perry ran an ad in Iowa prior to his entrance into the race.
WATCH the first ad from Americans for Herman Cain: