[image-1]Local legislators supporting Barack Obama’s presidential campaign are receiving donations from his PAC, Hopefund, according to a Washington Post story.

In recent months, Obama has handed out more than $180,000 from the nearly dormant PAC to local Democratic groups and candidates in the key early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, campaign reports show.

The bulk of donations from Obama’s PAC to state and local candidates this year went to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In addition, there were more than $60,000 in donations to national candidates in those same states, including $9,000 for Rep. Paul W. Hodes, the first member of Congress from New Hampshire to endorse Obama earlier this year.

Do I think that these legislators traded endorsements for cash? Absolutely not. Do I think these donations from the PAC where in some way connected to their support for Barack? I think it’s near impossible to argue otherwise. But the campaign gives it a try.

Obama spokesman Joshua Earnest said there was no connection between the PAC’s giving and Obama’s presidential aspirations. “Senator Obama long has been doing whatever he can to help elect fellow Democrats all across the country,” Earnest said.

Kent Cooper, the FEC’s retired chief of public disclosure, said the commission, if it chose, could declare that Obama’s presidential campaign and PAC were “affiliated,” meaning some activities involving the PAC could be declared in-kind contributions to the presidential campaign that would exceed current donation limits.

This “affiliated” title shouldn’t be exclusive to Obama, but shared with every presidential candidate tied to a particular PAC. Also, Obama is not alone with targeted PAC donations. We reported a few weeks back about Mitt Romney’s support for conservative school board candidates here in Charleston last November. But even Mitt has kept his hands off PAC money this year.

“The federal election laws don’t allow you to have a PAC subsidize a campaign. We wanted to make sure we followed the law,” Romney spokesman Matt Rhoades said in explaining why the Commonwealth PAC stopped making donations after Romney joined the presidential race.