The natural follow-up to today’s Morning Jolt is, “What can be done about dishonest political-action committees?”
First, some of these scam PACs violate the law in the course of soliciting donations and moving money around — setting up dummy pass-through corporations, shell entities that exist only on paper, using fake identities in business correspondence — and the perpetrators can be prosecuted for fraud. Last November, one organizer of these kinds of PACs pled guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
That organizer was sentenced to two years in prison! Sing that from the rooftops. After the plea, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said, “This is the first-ever federal prosecution of fraudulent scam PACs, but it won’t be the last.” Here’s hoping there are many more to come.
Second, despite deep partisan divides on what campaign-finance reform should actually include, there’s a broad bipartisan consensus in favor of disclosure. These groups are already required to disclose how they’re spending their money in their form 990s and form 8872. Perhaps it’s time to to change federal law and require political action committees to give donors regular updates on how they’re spending donors’ money, and which candidates receive their contributions. (Some PACs already do this.)
Third, just as the best defense against foreign disinformation is a more discerning and less credulous public, the best defense against scam PACs is a more discerning and less credulous donor base. Grassroots conservatives need to learn to not break out the checkbook for every fundraising letter in the mail that mentions their favorite political figures. If somebody says he’s raising money for the Senate campaigns of Allen West, Laura Ingraham or Sheriff David Clarke, you have to have the wherewithal to check to see if West, Ingraham, or Clarke have announced a campaign.
About once a year, some reporter or group of reporters go into the numbers and does a deep dive and does an eye-opening expose of political action committees that raise huge sums but only use a small fraction for the intended purposes. It would be helpful if more people saw and remembered the names of the bad political action committees and stopped giving to them.