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How can I anonymously give money to Elizabeth Warren's campaign?
November 19, 2011 7:43 AM   Subscribe

How can I give money to Elizabeth Warren's campaign without it causing my unusual name to be plastered all over the internet?

When I gave money to the Obama campaign in 2008, the donation was a matter of public record that was almost immediately the #1 search result for my name, which was surprising as I have a pretty decent online presence. This is somewhat concerning as I like to keep my politics private and there could potentially be some professional repercussions when people search on my name.

I would now like to give a large chunk of money to Elizabeth Warren's campaign, but I would prefer that it not show up at the top of search results. Is there some way to give a significant amount of money (say ~ $1000) that won't show up everywhere? Perhaps a super-pac or other avenue?

No throwaway email, but I can memail people if needed. Anonymous so that it isn't linked with my usual account.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It's a little too early for a ton of interest group spending, your best bet may be Russ Fiengold's PAC which has come out for Warren, or the progressive change committee PAC. As far as I can tell the only PAC spending in the race so far has been last week's Rove/Koch attack ad. If you want a better shot of your money going directly into the Warren race you should probably sit tight for a while and watch where the pro-Warren spending starts coming from.

In theory you could set up some kind of corporate shield and donate through that medium to keep your name out of google's memory, but that's kinda extreme for the average donor.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:57 AM on November 19, 2011


Oh duh, look through the Act Blue page.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:02 AM on November 19, 2011


Do you have a trusted friend or relative who could donate for you?

You would give them the money, and they would donate in their own name.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:49 AM on November 19, 2011


You would give them the money, and they would donate in their own name.

I'm pretty sure that isn't legal.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:50 AM on November 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Okay, I did some research and it looks like contributions in the name of another are expressly prohibited.

Sorry about that!
posted by insectosaurus at 9:00 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I understand what you're saying here, but the idea that a democracy can be bought and anonymously at that is why we have disclosure laws. (Ignore the fact that this sentence implies, and rightfully so, that I have a bias against campaign donations.)

See also:
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:16 AM on November 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, don't give money, give time. It's harder to trace, there's a whole lot of political activism that you can do that cannot be traced back to you, such as Occupy George and E PLURIBUS UNUM. You can also blog under a pseudonym, flier your town at night (I disagree with that as well, but that's also another story), etc.

At the end of the day though, contributions over $50 cannot be anonymous by law.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:21 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, it is unquestionably illegal to give someone money to donate for you.

Re this: At the end of the day though, contributions over $50 cannot be anonymous by law.

Not sure where that's coming from. Federal candidates are not obligated to report donor information for donations up to $200. However, that doesn't mean such donations are necessarily anonymous—campaigns can report them in detail if they like. (And I've seen some of them do so.) What's more, if you aggregate over $200, they will then be required to report you. (That is to say, you can't just give five $200 donations and escape FEC disclosure laws.) From the FEC's website:
If you contribute more than $200 to a committee, the committee is required to use its best efforts to collect and publicly disclose on a financial report your name, address, occupation and employer, as well as the date and amount of your contribution. Committees sometimes request this information even for smaller contributions, since the $200 reporting threshold applies to your total contributions to one committee during a calendar year. For example, you may make several small contributions to a committee during a year. Once these contributions add up to over $200, the committee must report the contributor information.
You could, for instance, try to find a 501(c)(4) that is supporting Warren (or opposing Brown) and donate to them. Such groups are not required to disclose their donors. For instance, the League of Conservation Voters has been running ads attacking Scott Brown. However, there's no way to guarantee your money would go to such an ad campaign. It would probably just go into the LCV's general treasury, to be used as they see fit. (And it's also possible that the LCV could choose to disclose its donors. I'm not sure if they do or not.)

Of course, you could create your own 501(c)(4) and, say, run ads in support of Warren. That way, you'd know exactly how the money was being spent and you could guarantee non-disclosure. But that wouldn't be practical with the amounts of money you're talking about.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:32 AM on November 19, 2011


Also, don't give money, give time.

Unfortunately, the hard-to-trace forms of volunteer activism often aren't very effective — unless you're contributing very specialized professional skills. For most people, the best way to invest your time in support of a candidate or cause is to talk to your neighbors in person.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:08 PM on November 19, 2011


[Folks, please stick to answering the OPs question and not turning this into a discussion of the many interesting side topics here, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:58 PM on November 19, 2011


Here's the deal: the campaign is only required to disclose the source of contribution totalling greater than $200, but they CAN disclose for smaller amounts. So if you give the Warren campaign a total of $199 or less, there's a good chance that your donations will be reported to the FEC as "individual contributions totaling less than $200," but there's no guarantee. These days there are so many automated tools to make FEC reporting easier that it's often MORE work to not disclose the names of small donors (e.g., the data just gets moved via API into your FEC reporting software at the time of the donation).

There is a great deal of misinformation in this thread:
1. A 501c4 cannot engage in communications expressly supporting a candidate. They can say "Scott Brown is a dick," but they can't say "don't vote for Scott Brown." They can NOT say "vote for Elizabeth Warren." Now that can be a slippery line, but it's real.

2. Definitely laundering your donations is 100% illegal. Don't do this. I see a few people corrected this upthread, but it's not a gray area at all.

3. Super PACs. 527s, etc. are all going to play a more pronounced role in this cycle than before, and they will not have disclosure requirements, UNTIL THEY DO. This is a very legally murky and contentious area. A lot of right-wing bigots gave money to Proposition 8 in CA under the impression that they would remain anonymous. And they did, until a judge rained on their parade. So it is correct that the letter of the law AT THIS MOMENT indicates that you can give to a Super PAC/527/whatever anonymously, if you are worried about security clearance or some really sensitive stuff, I would not take this as 100% assurance. If you are worried about avoiding annoyance or difficult conversations with Grandma, it might be worth the risk.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:44 PM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you have a trusted friend or relative who could donate for you?

You would give them the money, and they would donate in their own name.


DO NOT DO THIS.

It is a felony violation of 18 USC 1001 and punishable by up to 5 years in jail.

PAC is the only way to go.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:55 PM on November 19, 2011


To be clear, a typical PAC has the same disclosure requirements as a candidate committee.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:57 PM on November 19, 2011


Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell:
Re this: At the end of the day though, contributions over $50 cannot be anonymous by law.

Not sure where that's coming from. Federal candidates are not obligated to report donor information for donations up to $200.
According to the FEC website:
Contribution Limits
An individual may give a maximum of:
  • $2,500 per election to a Federal candidate or the candidate's campaign committee.2 Notice that the limit applies separately to each election. Primaries, runoffs and general elections are considered separate elections.
  • $5,000 per calendar year to a PAC. This limit applies to a PAC (political action committee) that supports Federal candidates. (PACs are neither party committees nor candidate committees. Some PACs are sponsored by corporations and unions--trade, industry and labor PACs. Other PACs, often ideological, do not have a corporate or labor sponsor and are therefore called nonconnected PACs.) PACs use your contributions to make their own contributions to Federal candidates and to fund other election-related activities.
  • $10,000 per calendar year to a State or local party committee. A State party committee shares its limits with local party committees in that state unless a local committee's independence can be demonstrated.
  • $30,800 per calendar year to a national party committee. This limit applies separately to a party's national committee, House campaign committee and Senate campaign committee. $117,000 total biennial limit. This biennial limit places a ceiling on your total contributions, as explained below.
  • $100 in currency (cash) to any political committee. (Anonymous cash contributions may not exceed $50.) Contributions exceeding $100 must be made by check, money order or other written instrument.
Emphasis mine.
posted by Brian Puccio at 2:57 PM on November 19, 2011


Use a different variation on your actual name (ie, first initial + middle name + last name) so it doesn't show up at the top of the Google results for the form of your name that you actually use?

Also it's likely they'll make it possible for you to participate in phone banking from wherever you are, so sign up for volunteering.
posted by citron at 11:17 PM on November 19, 2011


Use a different variation on your actual name (ie, first initial + middle name + last name) so it doesn't show up at the top of the Google results for the form of your name that you actually use?

I used to work for a PAC-like organization, and this is the solution many of our larger donors chose to use.
posted by anastasiav at 5:56 PM on November 20, 2011


Ignatius J. Reilly: "There is a great deal of misinformation in this thread:

1. A 501c4 cannot engage in communications expressly supporting a candidate. They can say "Scott Brown is a dick," but they can't say "don't vote for Scott Brown." They can NOT say "vote for Elizabeth Warren." Now that can be a slippery line, but it's real.
"

Indeed. That's why I said "run ads in support of" or "run ads attacking" Warren/Brown. 501(c)(4)s can and do do both things. The LCV ad I linked is certainly an attack on Scott Brown. ("But there’s a growing stain on his record. Senator Brown’s taken over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars from big oil" etc. etc.) They could also run ads saying, "Thank Elizabeth Warren for standing up to big oil." That, to me, would constitute "supporting" Warren. So I don't see how there was any misinformation in what I wrote. If you want to help beat Scott Brown, giving money to a group running negative ads against him (even if they can't expressly say "don't vote for Brown") is certainly one thing you can do.

And Brian Puccio, I forgot about good ol' cold hard cash! Thanks for reminding me of that exception.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:48 AM on November 23, 2011


Conrad- as for the positive ads, those have to stop 60 days before election day, which is the key mobilization/persuasion period. I wasn't trying to say you're a liar or anything, but it is very much the case that a donor's funds aren't guaranteed to be used for the most effective down-the-stretch electioneering activities if given to a 4c.

There's also the small matter that they don't earmark contributions and many are nonpartisan--so your "Elizabeth Warren" money could just get thrown at a Republican State Senator or somesuch.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:55 PM on November 25, 2011


Are you sure about that? Wasn't the whole point of Citizens United that it struck down limits on electioneering communications? Anyway, we were talking about helping Warren now, not next year, so that's really a non-issue.

As to the other issue you raise, I said: "However, there's no way to guarantee your money would go to such an ad campaign. It would probably just go into the LCV's general treasury, to be used as they see fit."
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:54 PM on November 28, 2011


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