Democrats Seek FEC Approval to Use Controversial “Super-PAC” Tactics Employed by Republicans

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Democrats have resorted to a “if-you-can’t-beat-’em, join-’em” strategy with super PACs by asking federal elections officials to let them use the same controversial tactics that Republicans have employed—and that Democrats until now have decried.


In a request submitted to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), lawyers for the Democratic Party are seeking authorization to form super PACs that exploit “loopholes and legal gray areas that Republicans have already used to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the 2016 campaign through such groups,” The New York Times reported.


The request asks the FEC to clarify how declared candidates, their campaign staff and their volunteers can help court donors for “independent” super PACs, which would include having a candidate be the “special guest” at a super PAC “fund-raiser” with as few as two donors.


“The PACs have serious doubts about the permissibility of many of the activities,” the lawyers wrote. “Clear guidance from the FEC will provide legal assurance to the PACs and help guide the PACs’ actions going forward.”


The FEC has made very few determinations on what’s legal and what’s not as far as super PACs go because of the even Democratic-Republican makeup of the commission. Seeking clarification could be a win-win for Democrats; if they get the OK, they have a new fund-raising tool. If they don’t, GOP candidates that have used the techniques could find themselves in legal trouble.


How the FEC responds to the request “could have profound ramifications for the 2016 campaign, particularly for Democrats who, like Hillary Rodham Clinton, have been reluctant to engage too closely with super PAC fund-raising,” the Times’ Nicholas

Confessore wrote.


Even if the FEC does not act on the request, the result could well be the same for the Democratic Party, which may interpret a non-decision as a green light to use Republican methods for fundraising.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Democrats Lay Groundwork to Expand Use of ‘Super PACs’ (by Nicholas Confessore, New York Times)

Liberal Group Files FEC Complaint over Pro-Bush Super-PAC Contributions (by Michael C. Bender, Bloomberg)

Jeb Bush’s Campaign Finance Organization Breaks New Ground by Relying on Super PAC (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Super-Wealthy Pour Money into Election Campaigns through Single-Donor Super PACS (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Rich Democrats Discover the Joy of Super PACs (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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