Here’s yet another consequence of the confusing super PAC era: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., may have irritated members of his conference by donating to an anti-incumbent super PAC before the Illinois primary, but Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., could have violated campaign finance rules when he solicited Cantor’s donation. Last week, Roll Call reported that Cantor donated $25,000 to the Campaign for Primary Accountability as a way of supporting freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill, against fellow Republican Rep. Don Manzullo in a member-versus-member primary in the state’s 16th District (The group ultimately spent over $220,000 against Manzullo). According to both Cantor’s camp and Schock himself, Cantor cut the check at Schock’s request.
That’s where Schock treads dangerously close to the line drawn by the FEC. In an advisory opinion issued last year, the FEC says that federal officeholders and candidates “may solicit up to $5,000 from individuals (and any other source not prohibited by the Act from making a contribution to a political committee)” on behalf of super PACs. Candidates may appear at fundraisers on behalf of super PACs, but they cannot be involved in asking for checks larger than $5,000 — the reason Cantor, Mitt Romney, Harry Reid or even President Obama, for that matter, can appear at fundraisers for supportive super PACs, but they have to leave the room before staffers ask for donations in order to raise unlimited sums. Schock, it seems, directly asked for a contribution well above the limit the FEC allowed.
The onus, in solicitation cases, appears to fall on the solicitor, rather than the donor. Cantor’s donation upset Republican House members who have either faced or are concerned about facing CPA in the future, but by asking for that specific amount of cash, Schock may have run afoul of the FEC’s limit on solicitations to super PACs by a federal candidate or officeholder.