February 16, 2012

The Taste of a Super PAC

Hispanic Vote cupcakesAt the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in Washington last week, Republic Report had the opportunity to attend a very special event: the birth of a super PAC. We joined about 50 others (14 had RSVPed yes to the Facebook event) packed into a small conference room at the Marriott Waldman Hotel, seduced by the promise of free cupcakes and a cash bar to welcome Hispanic Vote Super PAC, the first conservative Hispanic super PAC, to the world.

Most of the best-known super PACs work to elect specific candidates. Their ability to raise and spend unlimited funds to support (or, as is all too often the case, attack) certain candidates is part of their sinister beauty: Candidates can have former aides and close allies run their affiliated super PACs (and can even speak at fundraising events for them). Because super PACs are not supposed to “coordinate” with the official campaigns, candidates can hold up clean hands when asked about attack ads on their opponents

Here’s where Hispanic Vote differs from its super PAC brethren. Both its website and the Power Point slideshow we were treated to at the launch party emphasize using social media to inform Hispanic voters and get them to the polls. That sounds okay by us. But why register as a super PAC then?

We asked DJ Garcia, the super PAC’s founder:

MERKELSON: Why did you choose to become a super PAC, where you can raise and spend unlimited funds, why not some other form of organization?

GARCIA: We were advised to do that. We do want to do grassroots, we want to register people to vote, but we also want to influence the political process, by being able to distribute money to candidates, and that’s the way you do that.

MERKELSON: But I thought super PACs can’t distribute money directly to candidates?

Garcia couldn’t say whether his super PAC had plans to support any candidates.

Another partygoer, this one fundraiser Lisa Benson, asked Garcia about his fundraising strategy. His response highlighted one of the biggest problems with super PACs and the relatively toothless disclosure laws governing them: “As a fundraiser, you know anonymity is very important.”

The cupcakes, at least, were delicious.