mhansen - 5:07 pm on Nov 2, 2011 (gmt 0)
I recall reading in the Quality Raters Guide that "Text Ads", "PPC Ads" or ads commonly identified as "Sponsored Links" are presented in a way to imply Sponsored Links = Spam. (Not verbatim, paraphrased from memory)
To be fair, later on the page, I seem to recall they also mention that not all sponsored links are spam. It has to do with the raters assessment of whether the page is deemed useful to the visitor or not.
While they may not be a Panda factor... somehow, I think they are factored into quality at one point or another.