In the News

The Gober Group files advisory opinion request with the FEC for innovative “Kickstarter for political ads” platform

Friday, September 9, 2016

Citizen Super PAC registered as an independent expenditure-only committee (aka “Super PAC”) with the Federal Election Commission on October 1, 2014, and it subsequently launched the first crowdsourcing platform where voters can select and financially back specific ads for the candidates and issues they support. In summary, Citizen Super PAC’s platform allows ordinary citizens to explore various projects and pledge money to fund the project(s) of their choosing. If a project meets its funding goal before the deadline, then the citizen’s credit card will be charged and the project will be funded and disseminated. If a project does not meet its funding goal, then the citizen’s card will not be charged. The ultimate goal of Citizen Super PAC is to “democratize” super PACs and increase participation in the political marketplace by providing citizens with the opportunity to fund political speech directly. Citizen Super PAC makes independent expenditures only and does not provide any money to candidates, and each online contributor to a specific project is required to affirm various facts so Citizen Super PAC can ensure the contribution is being made legally.

Today, The Gober Group filed an advisory opinion request with the Federal Election Commission seeking guidance on several questions related to Citizen Super PAC’s innovative platform and project plans. In order to increase participation in its platform, Citizen Super PAC would like to notify Federal candidates when a project has been created that supports them. Citizen Super PAC would like to ask the candidate to notify his or her supporters about the project and, in turn, ask those supporters to support the project. Specifically, a project was recently publicly launched that is an advertisement in support of Representative Joe Heck of Nevada.

The Commission has made it clear in previous advisory opinions that, despite the ban on Federal candidates and officeholders (“covered persons”) from soliciting funds outside of the Federal Election Campaign Act’s contribution limits and source prohibitions, it is permissible for covered persons to solicit up to $5,000 for any federally registered PAC, including a Super PAC. The Commission has also concluded that covered persons may attend, speak at, or be a featured guest at fundraisers for Super PACs and has stated that there is no minimum number of attendees required to make such activities permissible. There is, however, a lack of clarity in regard to (i) what level of specificity the covered persons may engage in supporting the Super PAC’s activities—outside of a solicitation up to $5,000—when that covered person speaks in support of the Super PAC; and (ii) what distinctions, if any, can be made with the covered person showing support in person versus showing support over the Internet.

The advisory opinion request can be viewed here.