Report: Some Super PAC Money Is Untraceable
By Eliza Newlin Carney
Roll Call Staff
Feb. 8, 2012, 10:49 a.m.
Six of the top 10 super PACs active in the 2012 elections have received money from untraceable sources, including nonprofits and shell corporations, according to a report released today by two progressive advocacy groups.
“Super PACs provide an avenue for secret money to influence elections,” states the report, titled “Auctioning Democracy,” released by Demos and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Since 2010, 6.4 percent of the itemized contributions underwriting super PACs could not be traced to their original source, the report found.
The sources of untraceable money going to super PACs included 501(c)(4) social welfare groups, which face no disclosure requirements, and shell corporations, which appear to “exist not to conduct regular business but rather simply to necessitate an extra layer of research to discover the true source of contributed funds,” according to the report. A third source of untraceable donations was money transfers from one super PAC to another, the report stated, in cases where the super PAC making the contribution had itself received funding from one or more nonprofits.
The report also spotlighted the large role of wealthy donors and corporations in underwriting super PACs, which were ushered in by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling to lift restrictions on direct corporate and union campaign spending.
More than half the money flowing to super PACs in 2010 and 2011 came from individual big donors, according to the report, who accounted for 56 percent of all super PAC receipts.
Individual donations of $100,000 or more made up more than three-quarters, or 79 percent, of all super PAC contributions with more than half (52 percent) coming in donations of $500,000 or more. More than a third (38 percent) of super PAC money came from donors giving $1 million or more, the report found. Direct donations from for-profit businesses made up 17 percent of the total.
The report comes on the heels of this week’s announcement by President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign that administration officials will help direct money to the top super PAC backing the president, Priorities USA Action.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Obama campaign officials stressed that they would support only Priorities USA Action, not its nonprofit affiliate, and that all money would be disclosed to the FEC.
But Priorities USA Action has drawn fire from watchdog groups because of a $215,234 cash transfer that it received from its nonprofit affiliate, Priorities USA. PAC organizers have said the money was for administrative expenses only.
The report released today includes Priorities USA Action in its top-10 list of super PACs that have received untraceable money. The others were the pro-GOP PACs Restore Our Future, American Crossroads, Make Us Great Again, Our Destiny and FreedomWorks for America and the Democrat-friendly PACs AFL-CIO Workers’ Voices, American Bridge 21st Century, House Majority PAC and Majority PAC. First Amendment advocates and super PAC organizers argue that the PACs’ activities are fully disclosed and consistent with FEC regulations.
Turns out corporations are NOT people, "my friend," despite the SCOTUS overturning McCain-Feingold to defend corporate "free speech rights." PEOPLE (the flesh and blood kinds) cannot donate >$1000 to a political candidate, or >$5000 to a PAC. CORPORATIONS, however, may donate as much as they like. Last year one of Romneys Bain Capital buddies formed a corporation that existed for about five months just to donate a million dollars to Romneys PAC, then dissolved itself right before the deadline for disclosing PAC donors.
That is without even considering PACs secretly shuffling mystery donors money back and forth among each other. During the GOP primary in his native SC, Stephen Colberts PAC ran an ad using Romneys "corporations are people" quote and Bain Capital career to proclaim, "If corporations are people, then Mitt Romney is Mitt the Ripper." Was that why Newt Gingrichs first primary win was SC? Or was the crapton of money HE received from a billionaire casino owner? Maybe both?
To be fair, Colbert did not run that; as he explains in the below clip, he had already signed the PACs ownership over to Jon Stewart (reportedly there was a mindmeld involved) and its staffers were, in accordance with US law, COMPLETELY UNAFFILIATED with Colbert; they merely work in his office and appear on his show. He has since retaken the PAC from Stewart, and the million dollars it has raised promises more of the ads he has run in several states during GOP primaries.
Just to be clear: That Obama and the AFL-CIO are making hay while the sunshines with PAC money does not make it any less garbage; on the contrary, banning that mystery money from shuffling between PACs and candidates in perfect collusion while pretending the opposite makes every bit as much sense as banning the rest.
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