Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What are super PACs?

A “super PAC” is a political committee that can only make independent expenditures (and therefore is also referred to as an “independent expenditure only committee”). All ads, robocalls, billboards, and other forms of speech by a “super PAC” must be done entirely independent of candidates or causes that the super PAC supports. Since there can be zero coordination between super PACs and candidates or causes, super PACs may raise unlimited amounts of money. However, if the super PAC ever coordinates, the super PAC’s officers risk prosecution, multiyear investigations by the FEC, hefty fines, and big legal bills.

Where do super PACs come from?

While the term “super PAC” emerged from a journalist’s shorthand for “independent expenditure only committee,” the actual legal entities came from a case, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, brought by the Center for Competitive Politics in 2010.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court made it clear that there was no fear of corruption or the appearance of corruption when persons only made independent expenditures. However, Federal law placed a strict $5,000 limit on contributions to political committees that only made these non-corrupting independent expenditures.

In SpeechNow, CCP won a unanimous decision from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that political committees could receive unlimited contributions so long as the committees only made independent expenditures.

What did Citizens United accomplish?

Citizens United came about because a political organization wanted to broadcast a movie critical of then Senator Hillary Clinton and her campaign for the 2008 Democratic nomination. At the time, campaign finance regulations prohibited the movie from being broadcast, solely because Citizens United was a corporate entity. Initially, the government admitted that, under the campaign finance laws at the time, even a book could be banned if it were published by a corporation and aimed to defeat a political candidate.

Shocked at the absurdity of the laws, the Supreme Court permitted all associations of persons, for-profit book publishers, non-profit interest groups like the NRA or the Sierra Club, labor unions, and other groups to speak out about politics without any limit — so long as the associations did not directly coordinate with any candidate, campaign, or organized cause.

Does the Supreme Court believe money is speech? Or that corporations are people?

No.

However, the Supreme Court has held that money is vital to free speech. This makes sense. Without money for a megaphone, a protestor is just a hoarse voice in the crowd, a newspaper publisher cannot buy a printing press, and broadcasters cannot access the airwaves. Therefore, government prohibitions or strict limits on the amount of money that any American can use for criticizing the government ends up banning or limiting constitutionally-protected speech.

Nor does the Supreme Court believe that corporations are people. What the Supreme Court has said is that the individual rights to criticize the government do not disappear when those individuals associate with each other, whether that association takes the form of a labor union, a youth hockey team, or a for-profit corporation. Since the government claims the right to regulate all of these entities, it is vital that they have the ability to speak out and influence government policies.

Common Campaign Finance Questions:

What are the primary methods of controlling money in politics?

Campaign finance laws and regulations generally fall into one of two categories. Contribution limits set a maximum limit on how much money donors can give to candidates or organizations. Contribution limits must conform to standards derived from the case Randall v. Sorrell, which held that artificially low contribution limits hinder free expression. The second category, disclosure regimes, is systems of reporting and making publically available information regarding donations. Although they were originally intended to publically display the financial relationship between donors and politicians in order to expose corruption, excessive disclosure laws have been abused in an effort to intimidate donors.

FAQ Questions:

How does CCP get the word out?

In addition to appearing on radio and television, CCP experts are often quoted and published in a variety of publications. To directly address the public, CCP maintains a blog, youtube channel, and twitter feed.

Which print media outlets have featured CCP experts?

We have printed op-eds in major news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, USA Today, Forbes, US News & World Report, and the National Review, as well as local papers such as Colorado Springs Gazette, LaCrosse Tribune, and Columbus Dispatch.

Where have CCP experts appeared elsewhere in the media?

We appear on Fox News, Fox Business, Bloomberg News, NPR, and the Thom Hartman Program.

Can we book an expert?

Yes! Contact our Communication’s Director Sarah Lee.

Is CCP a 501(c)3 tax-deductible organization?

Yes. All donations whether made by check, cash, or credit cards are considered tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. CCP will send a tax receipt to you as soon as we receive your contribution.

How can I donate?

There are several ways to donate to CCP. You can easily donate through our website by clicking here; you can call 703-894-6832 and donate over the phone; or you can send by mail to:

Center for Competitive Politics
124 S. West Street, Suite 201
Alexandria, VA 22314

Can I donate appreciated stock in lieu of check, cash, or credit?

Yes. Giving shares of appreciated stock, bonds, mutual funds, and other securities is an especially tax-wise way to make a gift to CCP. If you have held securities for more than one year that have increased in value since acquisition, you will received a charitable tax deduction equal to the current value. This allows you to avoid paying capital gains tax you would owe on the gain in value if you sold the securities. Gifts of securities are deductible for federal tax purposes up to a limit of 30 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Please contact Julie Drinkard, External Affairs Associate, at 703-894-6832 or by email at jdrinkard@campaignfreedom.org for further information.

Does CCP accept donations made through bequests?

Yes. If you are interested in supporting CCP through a bequest, we would be happy to consult with you to create a customized giving program that may include cash, securities, or a trust. Donations can be made to support general operating funds or a specific project. A bequest is the simplest and easiest way to make a significant gift to CCP after your lifetime. It offers flexibility – you retain use of your assets and can make changes at any time to reflect your philanthropic and financial goals. And a charitable bequest is deductible for federal estate tax purposes.

Please contact Julie Drinkard, External Affairs Associate, at 703-894-6832 or by email at jdrinkard@campaignfreedom.org for further information.