by Kim Barker, ProPublica
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.
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 vacationhas 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.