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FEC Terminates 'Zombie' Super PACs

The Federal Election Commission has pulled the plug on 300 “zombie” super PACs that had registered with the commission but then failed to raise or spend any money.

The terminated PACs were run by a handful of unknown organizers who, for reasons of their own, had each set up dozens of super PACs with obscure names and missions. FEC records list numerous PACs with humorous or unusual names, from Zombies of Tomorrow, to the recently registered PAC Designed to Confuse the Public.

Treasurers whose PACs the FEC shuttered included Josue Larose, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who had registered more than 65 super PACs with names such as the K Street Lobbying Firms Super PAC and the Tea Party Campaign Fund Super PAC. Another Sunshine State super PAC treasurer, Alexander Clinton, of Plantation Fla., ran a Democratic Leadership Federal Committee super PAC for virtually every state in the country.

“I am pleased that they are taking aggressive action to administratively terminate these bogus PACs,” said Brett Kappel, counsel in the government relations and political law practice group at Arent Fox. The FEC has the legal authority to terminate political committees that are inactive for a year or more. PACs set up as a joke or a hobby place an administrative burden on the commission and can cause confusion if they borrow names from actual people or companies, Kappel said.

In 2012, the commission terminated 61 super PACs, far fewer than the 300 shut down since January. Super PACs have proliferated since the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling to deregulate independent political spending, and the FEC lists more than 700 on its website. But fewer than 80 super PACs spent $1 million or more in the 2012 elections, according to Political MoneyLine.

In 2012 “there was this incredible misperception that there were hundreds and hundreds of them that were active in the election,” Kappel said, adding that “in fact, only a handful raised and spent enough money to have any kind of an impact.”

Comedian Stephen Colbert sparked dozens of copycat PACs with his spoof super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, which he used to lampoon unrestricted money. Colbert had actively encouraged copycat PACs, offering instructions and rewards to student super PAC organizers, giving rise to such super PACs as Bears for a Bearable Tomorrow and Americans for a Better Tomorrow Today.

But in December, Colbert shut down his super PAC, which had raised more than $1 million. He ultimately shipped about $135,000 apiece via another satirical group, the Ham Rove Memorial Fund, to the Center for Responsive Politics and the Campaign Legal Center. One of Colbert’s props had been a glasses-wearing ham meant to invoke GOP super PAC strategist Karl Rove.

Both groups picked up the joke and renamed conference rooms in Colbert’s honor. The Campaign Legal Center was to host on Tuesday a dedication ceremony for its Ham Rove Memorial Conference Room, which will feature a video appearance by Colbert and remarks by the group’s president, Trevor Potter, who is Colbert’s lawyer through his legal practice at Caplin & Drysdale.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the treasurer of the K Street Lobbying Firms Super PAC and the Tea Party Campaign Fund Super PAC. His name is Josue Larose.

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