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

Super PACs with similar-sounding names, satirical motives or undeclared aims are setting the stage for voter confusion in the months ahead. A super PAC called “a SuperPAC”? No kidding.

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Stephen Colbert's super PAC "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" has spent $15,000 on ads supporting Herman Cain in South Carolina.

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.

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 $29 million on the presidential race. (You can follow the money with our PAC Track application.) 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.”

Thank God for Colbert to bring a little levity into this traveling snake oil jamboree.  By the way, I urge ProPublica to keep both FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity on their Super Pac radar.  These two groups are currently stage managing the astro turf tea party cranks.  FreedomWorks has prepared a 33-page “tea party” budget proposal that would destroy the economy and the middle class even faster than our Wall Street banksters.

Matthew Balazik

Jan. 20, 2012, 2:18 p.m.

Mr. Paul Ryan, quoted above, contacted “a SuperPAC” to inquire about how he could make a large donation confidentially.  He did not take the time to disclose his prejudices.  We all like the right to speak anonymously, Mr. Ryan included.  I think that’s just a little hypocritical of the Campaign Legal Center.  Don’t you?  http://www.asuperpacforhire.com

It’s going to be a brave, new world, once someone realizes that the Super PACs can donate to each other, pushing even what little oversight is possible into a rat’s nest of guesswork.

Is there an overview on forming and maintaining these things?  It seems like the only proper protest is to flood the office to the extent possible.  After all, it looks like “Occupy the Courts” (in specific opposition to Citizens United) didn’t go so well, at least in New York City.

Hmmm…makes me want to start a superPAC for “Restore Our Future - Let Mitt Apply Offshore!” just so I can have people send money to ROFLMAO.

It’s going to be a very difficult time for GOP. Simply because God’s disapproval in order to prove that he or she exists.

Its interesting to what Stewart and Colbert are doing. Highlighting the absurdity of Super PACs and the American electoral system as a whole by taking it to its absurd extremes.

I wonder if people simply see their shenanigans for its levity. How many see it as a call-to-action and a serious indictment on its failures and weaknesses

Not anymore the “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”, it was renamed “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC.”!!!

@Pundit Fight: Re: “call-to-action and a serious indictment”.

I think they’re having or hoping to have another effect:  In highlighting the ridiculousness and inescapably non-democratic intent and effect of Citizens United, they’re teaching America that Walter Cronkite is dead.

That is, they’re teaching America that “It must be factual or else they wouldn’t be allowed to say it on TV!” is no longer - if it ever was - true.

They’re teaching America that just assuming that the men and women you see on TV, speaking at political events, featured on Time Magazine as the corporate man or woman “of the Year” are people of honor is…ridiculous.

We haven’t seen anything yet.  Some of these Super Pacs are probably registering simply to get money to smear state and local candidates when elections get underway.  We would do well to turn off the TV and, espcecially, start grassroots efforts to send money to state and local candidates across the U.S. who are interested in the welfare of average Americans.  $5 or $10 each can go a long way if 5 million people send it.  That, along with a constitutional amendment that corporations are not people, is how we can take back our system.

John @ 3:34pm, and Nancy above:
I want you to know that neither of your suggestions are likely to happen or change the landscape.
SuperPACs (independent expenditure only orgs) have only one exempt IRS function—electioneering.  Donating to another SuperPAC does not qualify and that expense would be taxable as income.  Any for profit entity could do the same thing.
SuperPACs are also currently only allowed to spend in federal races.  Although they can be linked to a state PAC, they can only share an insignificant cost burden and the rest of their accounts must remain separate, i.e. state PAC donations for state races, and SuperPAC donations for federal races.
It’s a complicated field (less so than it used to be), and many who are against the first ammendment are trying to muddy the waters, but PAC treasurers must understand these things.

@ the rocks This is from the http://www.opensecrets.org website:

“Federal Election Commission rules allow super PACs to legally avoid disclosing individual donors by attributing donations to nonprofit organizations, which are not required by law to reveal their donors.

During the 2010 election cycle, five super PACs utilized this little-used route, attributing all or nearly all of their contributions to nonprofit organizations organized with the Internal Revenue Service under section 501(c)(4) or section 501(c)(6) of the U.S. tax code, the Center for Responsive Politics finds.  Most of these non-profit groups are directly affiliated with the super PACs to which they donated money.”

To say we have rules always sounds good, but if they can be easily bypassed they are nothing but feel good window dressing.

@Max:
I’m not sure which rule you’re suggesting these non-profits are bypassing.  I don’t see any. (c)4s and (c)6s are corporate entities.  Like any for-profit corporate entity, if set up properly, they may be able to donate to SuperPACs.  They may also have to pay taxes on those donations if it violates their exempt functions.  Glad I could clear that up for everyone.

Like American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, for example, are perfectly legitimate ways to launder money.

That was the thrust of the Republican effort these last couple of decades…from “high finance” and deregulation to campaign finance and Citizens United, the effort - the successful effort - was to make the illegal legal.

You see the great thing about great wealth is if you’re not good enough to be a natural winner, you can buy new rules that tilt the playing field your way if you’re immoral and unethical enough.

God bless the 1st amendment that allows ibsteve2u to post anonymous comments without his full name, address, and occupation.

Are there any critical thinkers out there or is this a site for groupthink libs?

lolll…struck a nerve, did I?  You see while the right is afraid to be transparent in what they do, their motives are perfectly transparent.

Everyone has the right to speak anonymously.  I just call out the hypocrites.

@the rocks:  “Everyone has the right to speak anonymously.”?  Much like everyone is entitled to the benefit of the free market?  And entitled to free choice in what they buy and whose businesses they frequent?

lolll…you see the real reason for the “anonymity” of the SuperPACs is the donor corporations - the donor CEOs, rather - aren’t really using their money to attack democracy.  The reality is they’re levying the private tax they call profit upon the consumers - that is, the American people - and then using that money to attack democracy.

Without anonymity, the American people would have the freedom to choose not to fund their own enslavement by not buying that corporation’s products or frequenting that business.  The right’s intent with Citizens United had nothing to do with the “rights” of real, live American citizens but rather with forcing the American people to fund the transformation of democratic capitalism into totalitarian capitalism.

Cunning, don’t you think, to force a people to fund the effective transfer of all political power into the hands of a dictatorship by a committee of the wealthy elite?

I guess it is just libs…and hypocrites…and conspiracy theorists.

The reason the right’s base is so loyal is that they are naturally willing to be told what to think…who it is “OK” to support…who it is “OK” to hate.  That requires a myopia that also makes them incapable of understanding that they, too, mean nothing to the power behind the right.

@ the rocks From the Huffington Post website:

“The enforcement agencies need to send a clear message to donors that they need to put their name on the check if they’re going to be giving to Super PACs and I hope that reporters are taking a close look at filings by other Super PACs so that these types of abuses are smoked out,” the Campaign Legal Center’s Ryan said in a statement. “The fact that Restore Our Future has been the recipient of all three mysterious $1 million contributions warrants exploration of the PAC’s knowledge of or involvement in this ‘straw company’ donation scheme.”

The Huffington Post previously reported that the Utah state business records show that Eli Publishing and F8, LLC are registered with one of the founders of the Provo, Utah-based marketing company Nu Skin Enterprises and a lawyer connected to the company.

Unlike human beings, corporate donors need only disclose the name of the company, which in the case of W Spann provided no public information, and for Eli Publishing and F8, LLC provides little immediate information. That problem extends to many of the other corporations giving to Super PACs that also have relatively obscure names with little immediately available information on the humans behind the contributions.”

Anonymous million dollar donations from corporations - I mean “people” - and no one can account for the source of the money.  “Free speech” run amok?  Who could have predicted this after Citizens United except anyone with a library card.

Thanks “max.” On your next post, can you please include your full name, address and occupation.  Thanks!

Businessmen’s money won’t be needed in new world politics when electronic voting system will make governence matters miraculously easy.
By SOPA, PIPA etc. we’re trying to make possible something impossible!
Instead of wasting money and energy, we -the wise ones have to find eventually an unique universal entertainment system when each user will be charged by the usage of bites at a globally applicable flat rate. It’s now becoming undivided one world.

@“the rocks”:  Your argument - that “Since the 99% don’t have to give their names everywhere, the 1% shouldn’t have to, either.” - is invalid.

People posting here?  lolll…how many Americans do you think can find this website?  But more to the point, the American people have to try to find this website.  Whereas those pre-packaged lies the PACs and superPACs put out?  The American people have to try to avoid them…and frankly, they can’t. 

So when listing the freedoms the American people were deprived of by the Republicans and the rest of the right via Citizens United, you have at least two without even getting into the corruption of democracy:

1)  The right deprived the American people of the freedom to choose not to pay for the right’s lies.

2)  The right deprived the American people of the freedom to choose to not listen to their lies, for their lies are not clearly marked as being lies and their anonymity prevents the American people from identifying statements that are made by known liars.

So as a practical matter the American people have to assume that any and all advertising for the Republicans or major Republican stakeholders like Big Carbon and “high finance” is a lie.

They’d be right more often than not, eh?

Michael Burrows

Jan. 22, 2012, 9:48 a.m.

Here are a couple quick points.

I found this website via Craigslist.  They link to it for SOPA/PIPA info.  It really wasn’t difficult.

Secondly, I’m all for “more” speech rather than restriction on speech.  Super PACs are formed by all types, for different purposes.  If you don’t like a message being put forward then join up with another Super PAC that is promoting your ideas.  There are a bunch of them available currently and mostly likely more will be set up.  If anything, Super PACs level the playing field for the average guy.  Before, newspaper editorial pages or news media could endorse or criticize or promote any federal candidate in the days prior to an election with no recourse whatsoever (think Dan Rather and Bush National Guard story). They could impact an election in ways that a candidate couldn’t forsee. Now there are more sources of information.  That’s not a bad thing.

See the link for all the Super PACs :
http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/superpacs.php?cycle=2012

“the rocks” said:
Yesterday, 6:01 p.m.
I guess it is just libs…and hypocrites…and conspiracy theorists

and then “the rocks” said:
Yesterday, 7:20 p.m.
Thanks “max.” On your next post, can you please include your full name, address and occupation.  Thanks!

Yeah, right.  The thread topic was another good article by propublica on political Super Pac abuses.  Some of us took the time to engage the points you made initially, and I think we engaged them very well. You chose not to respond, and instead resorted to insults, calling everyone who didn’t agree with you, “libs…hypocrites…and conspiracy theorists”.  Then you resorted to demands for personal information.  This website requires you have a valid e-mail address before posting, nothing more.  You have no moral authority - certainly no official authority - to demand anything..  What you could have done was respond to the points we made, and if you were unable to do so, further educate yourself on this issue and return, but I don’t think that is going to happen.  Churchill put it best when he said, “A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”.

Me, I think the right’s base would do well to consider these words of Churchill’s:

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.”

Occupy Propublica

Jan. 22, 2012, 2:55 p.m.

There’s Churchill and then there’s Jesus:
Matthew 7:3 comes to mind.

To: The Rocks
Yes, there are readers here that just don’t fall for the liberal mantra. Will be watching website to review coverage of the Dem Superpacs. This will get crazy on both sides as the Dems will be in the mix with Superpacs.

Democrats better have their own SuperPACs:  When somebody changes the rules to make it a gunfight, you don’t bring just a knife.

And the right surely changed the rules.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Buying Your Vote

Buying Your Vote: Dark Money and Big Data

ProPublica is following the money and exploring campaign issues in the 2012 election you won't read about elsewhere.

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