NEWSLETTER: You Need a Super PAC | In the News

February 2, 2024

Andrew Boucher: You Need a Super PAC

If you’re a candidate or running a campaign, you need an official super PAC. Here’s how to do it, complete with some warnings and sage advice.

But first, a quick diatribe about the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has ruled that contributions to federal campaigns can be limited, but when it comes to spending, attempts to restrict political expenditures run headlong into the First Amendment.

Right now, a wealthy candidate can pour an unlimited amount of his or her own money into a campaign.

A less-wealthy candidate can only accept $3,300 per person.

Here’s where the First Amendment comes in: You or I can spend unlimited money saying whatever we want. Not only that, but you and I can pool our money and use it to say whatever we want.

What about corporations?

Well, a corporation, by definition, is a form of you and I pooling our money.

How can corporations be people? This goes back to case law from the first half of the 19th Century. (To simplify things: Does the 4th Amendment apply to corporations? It sure does.

Can the government search a corporate headquarters without a warrant? No, they cannot.)

How can money be speech?

Well, the First Amendment also covers the free exercise of religion. A law limiting the amount of money a church could spend on a new youth center would violate the First Amendment. For freedom of speech, the Founders weren’t just talking about you standing on the corner and yelling. That’s why they included the phrase “the press.” No, the Founders were not referring to the news media (although they’re covered); they were referring to the most powerful advertising vehicle of its day, the printing press. (Fun fact: the common usage of “press” to refer to “news media” didn’t start until the second half of the 19th Century.)

Or look at it this way: What did Thomas Paine do after he wrote “Common Sense”? He found some rich people who shared his views and got them to pay for printing and distribution. When you run into people demanding more regulation on money in politics, ask them if their regulation would have applied to Thomas Paine.

That’s my diatribe.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

So now we have Super PACs.

Super PACs can take unlimited contributions, and those contributions can be corporate. Super PACs can spend unlimited money talking to voters, but those expenditures must be independent of any campaigns.

Legally, the candidate or campaign can have no input, influence, or communication about the expenditures being made to support the campaign.

(Oh, the irony: the “campaign finance reformers” have taken the decisions about how campaigns are run away from the actual candidates and given this power to rich people, corporations, and political consultants.)

And that’s where we are.

If you’re a candidate who happens to have some wealthy supporters who have hit their maximum contribution limit, you need to set up a super PAC.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Find an experienced consultant.
Step 2: Connect your donors to the consultant.
Step 3: Go back to your campaign and do not interact with the super PAC.

Do not violate Step 3.

It is illegal to have any communication with the super PAC about any expenditures, including messaging, strategy, tactics, design, polling, media buys, and mail schedules.

In Step 2, you can communicate with the super PAC on the fundraising side. You can tell a donor, “Call the guy running my super PAC.”

This brings us back to Step 1: you need a consultant.

What should you be looking for? First, you need someone who’s run both campaigns and super PACs. The team running your super PAC should track the race, follow the messaging, pull media buys, and even collect what’s showing up in mailboxes. A good consultant will look to fill gaps, augment your message, and attack your opponent’s weaknesses.

You must find a consultant you can trust. You are telling your donors to give money to a political consultant, and you have no control over how that money will be spent. None. We’ve seen consultants drain super PACs with high monthly retainers. We’ve seen money thrown down rabbit holes through bad targeting (often mysteriously using tactics with the highest profit margins for the consultant). We’ve seen consultants mail it in on super PACs – running cookie-cutter campaigns with zero relevance to the race.

We’ve been burned before.

We’ve seen our candidates and donors burned. That’s why we started doing super PAC work.

One final reason to find a good consultant, launch a super PAC, and connect your donors: If you don’t, someone might. If you don’t have your own super PAC, there’s a decent chance that someone else might decide to “raise money to help your campaign.” We’ve seen that happen before, too.

Find an experienced, professional consultant you can trust.

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