Emergence of super PACs worries leading political fundraiser

As fundraising for the 2012 presidential race heats up, one of the region’s leading political fundraisers said he is concerned about efforts to get around federal campaign finance rules.

Federal law prohibits individual contributions of more than $2,500 to any presidential candidate. But this campaign season has seen the emergence of “super PACs,” political committees formed by prominent supporters of a candidate, but nominally independent.

They’ve been raising unlimited contributions, in some cases at events featuring the candidate.

“It represents a real threat, I think, to the Democratic process,” said David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast and an experienced fundraiser who hosted an event at his home for President Barack Obama earlier this year.

“We could easily confront a situation in the presidential race where the super PACs in combination spend more money on the race than the presidential campaigns,” he said.

Court decisions and rulings by the Federal Election Commission have allowed super PACs and their related nonprofits to raise millions, in some cases keeping the identities of donors secret.

Obama’s supporters have created a super PAC called Priorities USA. Cohen says he and other Comcast executives don’t contribute to Super PACs or the “527” groups that shield donors.

“We participate actively in the process, but we participate through candidate PACs through full disclosure (and) through party PACS and party committee PACS with full disclosure of our participation,” he said.

Cohen, who noted he’s also raised money for Republicans such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said he follows the same rule in those efforts.

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