What We Did
WTF Colorado has formed a PAC. Yes, a Political Action Committee. Shocking, we know. But here’s our thinking.
Ken Buck has $400,000 in the bank and has already raised over $100,000 in 2017. No doubt, he will be helped by money from other sources. Our grassroots effort is growing, and grassroots is how we will beat Mr. Buck. But we also need to be able to compete on other platforms, and there’s a fee to play on many of those platforms. We don’t want to be handicapped by being excluded.
We’re not big fans of money in politics. We don’t think corporations are people. But the history of campaign finance is more nuanced than the mainstream messages following Citizens United.
PACs can organize around a party, a candidate or an independent group. In turn, individuals can contribute to a party, a candidate or an independent group. For years, corporations and unions were limited to sponsoring PACs (called, “separate segregated funds”) and encouraging their employees or members to contribute. However, the corporations and unions were prohibited from direct spending on election communications. Citizens United changed this by allowing corporations and unions to spend as much money as they want on election communications, provided the expenditures were not coordinated with a party or political campaign.
The idea that money is speech actually dates back to at least 1976. A different Supreme Court (led by Chief Justice Warren Burger) in a different political era (post-Watergate) struck down limits on campaign expenditures (advertising) on the theory that a restriction on spending for political communications necessarily reduced political expression, and political expression is protected by the First Amendment. At that time, campaign finance limitations were seen as protecting incumbents and preventing challengers from getting their message out. The challenges to spending limits were made by strange bedfellows, ranging from William F. Buckley and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the ACLU and the AFL-CIO. How times change.
Today, as the result of Citizens United, expenditures by independent groups supporting or opposing a candidate for federal office are unlimited in amount. Additionally, donors to independent groups can include corporations and unions, as well as individuals.
These independent groups can choose whether to organize as a super-PAC or a “dark money” PAC. Super-PACs must disclose (among other things) their contributors and the amounts contributed with the Federal Election Commission. “Dark money” PACs have no such disclosure requirement.
We need to be able to speak through the same channels as our opposition. WTF’s PAC will operate under full disclosure of donors. We are operating as a Super-PAC. We are planning to spend money in a federal election (Mr. Buck in 2018) and in select state races (governor, senate). That’s an expansion of our charter, but because 2020 is a census year, and because the federal government is not currently effective and controlled by the party we oppose, we find that acting in certain state races is just as critical, if not more so, than unseating Mr. Buck.
We will be asking for your help as we expand our role. At present, donations are only being collected for our national action fund. Donations to our Colorado Independent Political Committee will be opened soon.