Starting a PAC.
March 21, 2014 11:34 AM   Subscribe

What information is there about how to form a political action committee? What restrictions are there as far as advertising, focus, where the funds wind up, overhead costs, salary for PAC employees, etc? What is allowed federally, and what is allowed on a per-state basis?

posted by jsturgill to Law & Government (4 answers total)
You are proposing to enter a heavily regulated area where a wrong move can result in stiff penalties.

Since you will likely need to have a lawyer on retainer during the entire duration of this endeavor, I'd suggest you just start now. You can probably find some free consultations to get the ball rolling.

If you can't afford to retain the services of a lawyer for questions like the ones here, you probably can't afford to start a PAC.

That's not to say that you can't get decent information here, especially links to resources, but I think that it would be foolish to actually start a PAC without solid representation.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:52 AM on March 21, 2014

Much of this depends on what you mean by a PAC. But the FEC is actually very helpful regarding how to set up a federal PAC and all the rules involved.
Re states, well, you're going to have to either pay a lot of money for a 50 state sort of handbook, or start searching for the "ethics commission" or "campaign finance commission" of each state. Some states make it very easy to donate federal PAC money to state elections. Some have some sort of registration and disclosure requirement, but still let you use your federal PAC. Some make you set up a state PAC to donate money in a state election.
posted by atomicstone at 11:53 AM on March 21, 2014

Since Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC has been shut down, I'm not sure he or his staff offer guidance in this area anymore, but he used to sell a "kit" for people to start their own PACs. Looks like you can't purchase anymore, but there's still contact info here.

This article also has info on college PACs that were inspired by Colbert during the last presidential election. I bet it's possible to find contact info in their filings as well, and maybe a few of those mentioned would be willing to help out with more info.
posted by lesli212 at 12:29 PM on March 21, 2014

There are different kinds of PACs. For instance, a PAC can contribute money to candidates. A Super PAC cannot, but they can run as many ads and do as much campaigning for a candidate as they want, as long as they do not coordinate with the candidate at all. State PACs will have their own rules state to state, so it depends on whether you plan to support federal or statewide candidates.

As far as I know, the PAC itself can use its money how it wants. It can not exceed the limits for contributions to candidates though, obviously. The worst legal issues that arise are from coordinating with candidates when it's not allowed. That can get you in trouble, so you basically can only use material from the candidates campaign that has been shared publicly. Like Mitch McConnell's three-minute web ad of B-roll he posted recently.

I'd start with the FEC, assuming you want to do this for federal races. If you want to do it state by state, you'll have to find their elections commission, which probably has forms and info for you.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:56 PM on March 21, 2014

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