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The Campaign Legal Center Targets ‘Pop-Up’ Super PACs

July 16, 2021 by Dan McCue
The headquarters of the Federal Elections Commission.

WASHINGTON – The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC on Thursday accusing 18 super PACs of illegally pouring $200 million into competitive elections between 2017 and 2020 while allegedly concealing their ties to congressional leaders.

In a 50-page complaint, the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group claims political operatives launched a series of super PACs before these elections, giving them names like  “The Maine Way PAC,” “Peachtree PAC” “Keep Kentucky Great” and “Defend Arizona” to suggest to voters that the groups had a local affiliation.

In truth, the Campaign Legal Center’s attorneys say,  the super PACs were funded by larger enterprises like the Senate Majority PAC, which is affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and the Senate Leadership Fund, which is affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

By timing the release of their ads just before voters went to the polls, the complaint states, the super PACs delayed revealing their donors until after Election Day, obscuring their connections to Washington leaders.

“Senior leaders of both parties have been steering money from wealthy special interests to front groups specifically designed to trick voters,” said Adav Noti, senior director of trial litigation at the Center.

Noti, who is also a former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, went on to say, “Voters have a right to know when big money is flowing into their elections from D.C.-based groups hiding their agendas and funding behind fake names. 

“The vast scope of this illegal concealment should prompt swift investigation and a firm crackdown by the FEC,” he concluded.

The Federal Election Campaign Act requires that political committees publicly disclose “the name, address, relationship, and type of any connected organization or affiliated committee” within 10 days of becoming a political committee. 

The fact that these 18 “pop-up super PACs” received most or all of their funding from these established D.C-based groups clearly demonstrates such affiliation, the Campaign Legal Center says.

More worrisome from the plaintiff’s perspective, is that the practice appears to be growing, and such groups are already popping up in competitive contests this year.

In addition to seeking an investigation into the defendant super PACs, the center is seeking unspecified civil penalties against any group found breaking the federal election law and injunctive relief to prevent them from doing it again.

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