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PORTSIDE  January 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDE January 2012, Week 3

Subject:

In the Gusher of Super PACs, Even One Named ‘The Internet’

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Date:

Fri, 20 Jan 2012 23:21:30 -0500

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text/plain (198 lines)

In the Gusher of Super PACs, Even One Named ‘The
Internet’

by Kim Barker
ProPublica, Jan. 20, 2012, 1:53 p.m.
http://www.propublica.org/article/in-the-gusher-of-super-pacs-even-one-named-the-internet

Sure, there’s the GOP symbol, but the real elephant in
the room at any of the Republican debates since December
has been the super PAC, the turbocharged political
action committee able to raise and spend unlimited
amounts of money on political ads — as long as that
spending isn’t coordinated with a particular campaign.

Mitt Romney supporters used Restore Our Future to tank
Newt Gingrich in Iowa, while Gingrich supporters relied
on Winning Our Future for revenge in South Carolina.

Interactive Feature
PAC Track: What and where are the super PACs spending?

Jon Huntsman’s campaign would probably not have lasted
as long as it did without Our Destiny. Now that Rick
Perry is out of the race, throwing his support to
Gingrich, the real question is what will happen to the
war chest of Make Us Great Again.

But those are just the super PACs you’ve already heard
about — the ones that candidates grouse about at
debates, with Romney calling one Winning Our Future ad
that portrayed him as a corporate raider “probably the
biggest hoax since Bigfoot.”

As the countdown continues to the South Carolina primary
Saturday, it’s worth taking a step back and considering
all the confusing names, and all the confusing money
that might be spent in the coming months. It’s also
worth considering how we got to this new frontier, which
even campaign operatives say is messy: Two years ago on
Saturday, the Supreme Court, in its ruling on Citizens
United vs. FEC, cracked open the door for super PACs.
Two months later, a federal appeal court’s decision in
Speechnow.org vs. FEC threw it wide open. Now,
registering as a super PAC is as simple as sending a
letter and a form to the FEC.

So far, at least 283 super PACs have registered,
although 60 are run by one Florida man, Josue Larose,
and seem to serve no other purpose but piling up
paperwork for the FEC. And so far, super PACs have spent
more than $33 million on the presidential race. (You can
follow the money with our PAC Track application.
[http://projects.propublica.org/pactrack/ -- mod])
Although it’s not yet clear how that compares with
overall spending by the candidates themselves, reports
indicated that super PAC spending in Iowa outstripped
the candidates' by 2-to-1, said Paul Ryan, a lawyer with
the Campaign Legal Center.

More spending, likely the most ever in an election
season, is on the horizon. And even though some super
PACs seem to be parodies (like comedian Stephen
Colbert's Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,
which has probably done more to deliver “super PAC” into
the American lexicon than any politician), the groups
insist they are real.

“There’s all kinds of games going on,” said Fred
Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit
pushing to rein in super PACs. “Some group has put up a
website telling you how to get around disclosure. Look,
we have huge problems on our hands, and we get to
celebrate the cause of many of these problems on Jan.
21, the second anniversary of the Citizens United
decision. We have to deal with them as best we can.”

Here’s a rundown of some new super PACs and examples of
how confusing things can get:

The Patriot Super PAC, which registered with the FEC on
Tuesday, boasts a website promising to be the “future
home of something quite cool.” It will work to defeat
President Barack Obama, but it shouldn’t be confused
with the conservative Patriot PAC, which promises to be
the “point of the spear” and asks people to sign a
petition without providing the text. Nor should either
be mistaken for the Patriot Majority USA PAC, which
supports Senate Democrats.

Protecting Our Vote PAC registered on Jan. 13, with one
of the best signatures in any super PAC filing. Its
mission is unclear: The website simply says, Protecting
Our Vote PAC. American Sunrise registered as a super PAC
the same day, organized in part by Lora Haggard, the
former chief financial officer for onetime Democratic
presidential candidate John Edwards.

Citizens for Prosperity and Good Government, not to be
confused with the nonprofit conservative advocacy group
Americans for Prosperity, registered on Jan. 10.

Some people registering super PACs appear to be confused
themselves. Patricia McBride of Wasco, Calif.,
registered Citizens Fireup Super PAC on Jan. 9 to
support or oppose Obama but neglected to say which angle
she’ll take. McBride also wrote that she wished to
establish the super PAC as a (c4), which is shorthand
for a 501(c)4, the IRS code for a social-welfare
nonprofit. Although 501(c)4s are allowed to make certain
political expenditures, they are not allowed to be super
PACs. Regardless, the FEC appears to have registered the
group.

On Jan. 5, a super PAC called “a SuperPAC” registered
with the FEC, with a website at
www.asuperpacforhire.com, which includes a way to
donate. It also features the explanation: “Have you ever
wanted a message to get out to the voting public about a
candidate running for federal office but didn't want the
mess of production, compliance, or disclosure paperwork?
a SuperPAC wants to get the TRUTH out too.”

Treasurer Matthew Balazik of Frederick, Md., said the
group is real. Ads on its website, which proclaim “Paid
for by a SuperPAC,” target Democrats who’ve turned
Republican.

“We’re pretty conservative around here,” Balazik wrote
in response to an email. “We believe fundamentally that
you should be able to speak publically (sic) and
anonymously so long as you do not violate anyone else’s
rights.”

When asked if anyone had tried to hire a SuperPAC super
PAC, Balazik wrote simply: “That’s a good question.”

On Jan. 4, “The Internet” registered as a super PAC.
Unfortunately, its website doesn’t appear to be working,
but it does raise the specter of ads proclaiming, “paid
for by The Internet.”

On Dec. 22, the Real Leader PAC registered as a super
PAC, with a website that still leads to nowhere.

The previous week, Cain Connections PAC registered as a
super PAC, with no website, days after Herman Cain had
dropped out of the Republican race. Its mission is
unclear.

Earlier in December, the American Crosswinds PAC—
sounding remarkably similar to the Republican
fundraising juggernaut American Crossroads super PAC —
registered as a super PAC, although it has no website
and no email address.

On Dec. 1, Feel the Heat PAC registered from a
Washington P.O. box — just like many real super PACs.
Its website never got up and running, and reception must
have been cool: On Tuesday, it terminated itself. The
Restore Trust PAC, started by the same person, had
similar issues.

Also in December, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Today
— clearly a play on Colbert’s super PAC, Americans for a
Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow — registered with the FEC. On
Dec. 12, it announced it wanted to be a super PAC, with
a typo: “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Toady.”

Todd Bailey, who formed the super PAC, said it’s working
for the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has decried
the Citizens Unitedruling and the effect of money on
politics. In other words, a joke on a satire is
operating in earnest, apparently under the theory, “if
you can’t beat 'em, join 'em.”

“There’s a tool that’s been created that everyone’s
using,” Bailey said. “You have to make a choice. Either
stand on sidelines, or get in the game and use a tool
that you’re really not comfortable with.”

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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