CLC Complaint Seeks to Address Bipartisan Usage of Deceptive “Pop-Up” Super PACs

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Campaign Legal Center (CLC) has filed a complaint against a group of 23 super PACs, including groups tied to both Democratic and Republican leadership, for working to conceal their affiliation from American voters.

The super PACs at the heart of this complaint are so-called “pop-up” super PACs. Despite being mostly or entirely funded by a D.C-based super PAC with ties to party leadership, these groups presented themselves to voters as local groups, utilizing names that suggested local ties. Between 2017 and 2020, 18 super PACs representing interests tied to both major political parties spent more than $200 million attempting to influence voters, with nearly all of that funding coming from the five national groups.

Beginning in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election in Alabama and continuing through the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, these super PACs would “pop-up” in a state or district with a competitive congressional race, often in the final leg of the race, and spend heavily in an attempt to influence voters. 

The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) 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. None of these 23 groups listed each other as affiliates, despite clear affiliation in the form of significant funding transfers.

Voters have a right to know who is spending big money in attempt to influence their vote. If this trend of “pop-up” super PACs continues, that burden on American voters increases dramatically. The Federal Election Commission must hold these groups accountable for concealing important information. We need real transparency about who is spending big money in our elections.

Brendan is a Senior Communications Manager for Campaign Finance and Ethics issues at CLC.
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