Sunday, April 15, 2012

CREEP's back!

Good Day Readers:

Understanding wacky American politics is difficult at the best of times during a presidential campaign it's damn near impossible. Here's a primer courtesy of Wikipedia.

A Political Action Committee or PAC is an American organization that campaigns for or against political candidates, ballot initiatives or legislation. At the federal level, it becomes a PAC when it receives more that $1,000 according to the Federal Election Campaign Act. At the state level, an organization becomes a PAC according to the a state's election laws.

The 2010 election marked the rise of a new political committee dubbed the "super PAC." They are officially known as "independent - expenditure only committees," because unlike traditional PACs they may not make contributions to candidate campaigns or parties but rather must do any political spending independently of the campaigns. Also, unlike traditional PACs they can raise funds from corporations, unions and other groups and from individuals without legal limits.Two months later in versus FEC the Federal Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit held that contributions to groups that only make independent expenditures could not be limited in the size and source of contributions to the group.

Super PACs were made possible by two judicial decisions. First in January 2010 the US Supreme Court held in Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission that government may not prohibit unions and corporations from making independent contributions for political purposes.

But you've got to love the names of some of these PACs and Super PACs everything from Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow to Just Drink the Koolaid to Americans for a Better Tomorrow Yesterday to our favourite Joe Six PAC.

Then don't you also like the fact the new CREEP has a post office box located in the Watergate Complex. You know what our resident philosopher Yogi Berra would say about that:
"Daja vu all over again!"
Clare L. Pieuk
CREEP, an homage to Nixon's famous fundraising committee is based out of the Watergate Complex (Flickr/associatedstuff)

With 300-plus super PACs and counting, it would be easy to miss CREEP. But last Thursday, a new super PAC ingeniously named the Committee for the Re-Election of the President registered with the Federal Election Commission. At the federal level, an organization

The committee is based out of a post office box at the Watergate Complex—an homage, of course, to the other Committee for the Re-Election of the President, the fundraising committee for President Richard Nixon that became embroiled in the Watergate scandal.

It’s an inside joke with a serious punchline. The old CREEP (which used the acronym CRP and at one point was called the Committee to Re-Elect the President) helped spur the creation of the FEC. The website for CREEP Super PAC says it’s committed “to raising voices not dollars” and advocates disclosure.

“It’s an excellent chance for people to step back and say, ‘Are we happy with 40 years of campaign finance and the lack of disclosure?’” said Robert Lucas, 22, founder of the new CREEP and a graduate student in public policy at Georgetown University. “There’s a lot of irony, with the 40th anniversary of Watergate and where we are now.”

The latest FEC disclosures show that super PACs are forming at an accelerated pace, taking advantage of court rulings in 2010 that opened the door to political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money as long as they don’t coordinate with a candidate.

Seven new super PACs turned up yesterday morning alone, while one dropped out today, bringing the tally to 324. Only 159 have reported raising or spending any money. Of those, just 11 reported having more than $1 million in their coffers in their most recent filings with the FEC, led by GOP super PAC American Crossroads, which had more than $23.5 million at the end of February. (CREEP, being new, hasn’t reported raising any money, and Lucas says he has no plans to do so.)

Another 27 super PACs reported having at least $100,000 in the bank. The rest seem to be counting their pennies and hoping for a millionaire. (The Friends for a Democratic White House PAC, for instance, reported having only $12.02.)

Several of the money-less super PACs appear to be following the mocking trail blazed by comedian Stephen Colbert with his super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. These have names like Just Drink the Koolaid, Joe Six PAC, Americans for America, and Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Yesterday.

Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney’s decision to put his dog in a kennel strapped to the roof of his car for a 1983 family vacation has sparked the formation of four super PACs: DogPAC, Dogs Against Romney, I Ride Inside -The Pets Against Romney Committee, and, the latest in the genre, Mitt Is Mean —The Animal Lovers Against Romney Committee.

Despite being accused of chronic deadlock and doing nothing to rein in super PACs, the FEC has quietly taken action against certain committees. It warned 15 for failing to file annual financial reports from 2011—unless they do, they’ll be off the list. (Which might mean the end of super PACs such as the Brady Bunch PAC, Men Against Prostitution and Trafficking and the Bucket Tea Party Political Action Committee.)

The FEC also has shed 60 super PACs registered by super PAC man Josue Larose.  All of Larose’s super PACs were terminated by the FEC on March 7, apparently because they didn’t do much for a year. So farewell to the Unites States Celebrities Super PAC, the United States Billionaires Super PAC and the Wall Street Corporations Super PAC.

It was never quite clear what Larose was doing with all his super PACs. They attracted virtually no donations. (One exception: the $5,000 contributed by a PAC of employees of Contran Corp to Larose’s Rick Perry 2012 Victory Committee super PAC, which had nothing to do with Rick Perry. Contran is run by billionaire Harold Simmons, the largest single donor to GOP super PACs.)

Florida just filed more than 2,000 counts of state election violations against Larose.

So what does all this mean for the 2012 election? CREEP’s back, but we won’t have Larose to kick around anymore.


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