House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made her pitch Thursday for new regulations aimed at increasing campaign finance disclosures by outside groups.
But did the California Democrat run afoul of current campaign finance regulations in the process?
Pelosi’s remarks came during an event unveiling the latest version of the Disclose Act, which would tighten reporting requirements for corporations, nonprofit groups and super PACs that have become a major factor in the 2012 elections.
After answering a question about disclosure requirements, Pelosi added: “And, by the way, we are asking people to contribute to us if they want to elect more reformers to Congress so that we can do away with SuperPACs, we can do away with secret contributions, we can reform the system, we can amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision.”
That first bit — “we are asking people to contribute to us” — could be seen as a violation of both U.S. law, which forbids fundraising in a federal building, and congressional ethics rules, which bar using House resources for political purposes.
Pelosi’s office said the top House Democrat clearly didn’t mean to violate any regulations, but was merely describing how she explains the issue to people concerned about the influence of money in politics.
A few minutes later, for example, Pelosi said: “And, as I said, our pitch is, support us if you want to elect reformers to do away with these PACs.”
“The comment was very clearly referring to our efforts to disclose, reform and amend,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement. “Reporters have repeatedly asked the Leader how to square fundraising and reform policy, so that’s why she said we have to raise money to elect more reformers. That is her pitch to supporters.”
Kenneth A. Gross, a partner at Skadden, Arps, said Pelosi’s remarks probably don’t constitute a violation.
“It is true that the criminal code prohibits the solicitation of contributions on federal property,” Gross said. “However, this provision only comes into play in egregious situations and not in the course of a political statement which incidentally raises the making of political contributions.”
Democrats have revived their attempts to increase disclosure requirements for super PACs and other third-party groups after a wave of outside spending in the Republican primaries paid for in large part by a handful of billionaires. Earlier on Thursday, House Democrats released a tongue-in-cheek Web video taking aim at Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert in an effort to get their message across.