Do You Want to Influence the next Election?
by Wayne Flaherty
To have a direct and profound affect on the next election, all you have to do is create for yourself a Super PAC. It is simple and costs nothing.
Before Super PACs became "super," they were just PACs or Political Action Committees. The groups could support a candidate or a cause, but were heavily regulated under the terms of campaign finance law. Individuals were allowed to give $2,500 -- no more -- and corporations and unions were strictly forbidden from making donations. In a Super PAC, there is no limit to the amount of money an individual can donate.
In 2010, two court cases decided in the space of two months re-wrote the book on campaign spending and ushered in the era of the Super PAC. First, there was the Supreme Court ruling now referred to simply as "Citizens United." The groundwork had been put in place and two months later, another court ruling -- Speechnow.org v. FEC -- cleared the way for the creation of "independent expenditure-only" groups, or Super PACs.
Super PACs are barred from coordinating activities with any candidate or campaign, but the dividing line is murky. The two most closely dedicated to supporting the earlier Obama and Romney campaigns, respectively, are run by former aides to the president and his Republican challenger. The primary purpose of Super PACs and other independent groups, is to spend a lot of money, mostly on TV ads.
Anyone can form a Super PAC that can spend unlimited amounts of money on television ads in support of their candidate — as long as they don't consult with the candidates or the campaign staff directly.
How do I start a Super PAC?
A Super PAC (Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committee) must register by filing FEC Form 1 [PDF] (Instructions [PDF]), Statement of Organization within 10 days after raising or spending in excess of $1,000 in connection with federal elections. Under "Type of Committee," the PAC would check box 5(f). Additionally, the committee must submit a letter to identify itself as a Super PAC. The Commission has approved a template for Super PACs to use.
After registering with the FEC, PACs must file regular reports disclosing their receipts and disbursements. PACs have the option to file these reports quarterly or monthly, and may change their filing frequency as often as once a year. PACs that choose to file quarterly may be required to file certain pre- and post-election reports, depending on their activity.
When you create your super PAC, be sure to give it a clever name, one that will cause people to donate money to it. When I win the lottery, I plan to make my voice heard in this campaign. You could do the same!