Want to get big money out of politics? Set up a super PAC.
That seemingly incongruous formula has been seized on by a growing number of watchdog groups, self-styled reformers and student activists who have set up more than a dozen super PACs aimed at putting a stop to unrestricted campaign spending.
With names such as America’s Super PAC for the Permanent Elimination of America’s Super PACs, Citizens Against Super PACs and No Dirty Money Elections, these protest political action committees are sober-minded, satirical or sometimes both.
Take CREEP, a super PAC set up by Georgetown University graduate student Robert Lucas. The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference the Nixon-era Committee for the Re-Election of the President, which organized the Watergate break-ins 40 years ago.
But Lucas, 23, has a high-minded goal of “raising voices, not dollars,” as he put it and is pushing for both public financing of campaigns and tax code reforms that would pull back the curtain on election-related spending. He has no plans to back candidates or party committees.
On the lighter side is Everyone’s Favorite Group of Socially Acceptable People Who Have Happy Funtime Ideas and Team, which registered with the Federal Election Commission on April 6 with no stated Web address or objectives.
By contrast, the newly registered Friends of Democracy PAC is the work of a pair of well-known progressive organizers: David Donnelly, executive director of the Public Campaign Action Fund, and Ilyse Hogue, who has worked as a senior adviser with Media Matters for America. Friends of Democracy will function both as a super PAC and a conventional PAC and will advocate campaign finance changes.
Other super PACs protesting big money in politics include the Occupy Wall Street PAC; People Against the Corporate Manipulation of Election and News, which on its website touts its organizers as “everyday, non-billionaire, non-lobbyist people”; and You Forgot Us, which on its site asks: “Tired of the Big Money controlling the country? Wondering what you, the average American citizen, can do about it?”
It costs nothing to register a super PAC with the FEC, and the process involves filling out a simple form, as comedian Stephen Colbert demonstrated on his popular TV show. The father of all satirical super PACs, as the organizer behind Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Colbert spawned a wave of copycat PACs when he sold 1,000 versions of his $99 “Colbert Super PAC Super Fun Pack” within a week this spring.