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How to Start a Super PAC

And What to Do With Your Independent Expenditure Only Committee


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Nerida McMurray Photography/Digital Vision/Getty Images

So you want to start your own super PAC. Maybe you're worried that your vote doesn't really matter. Maybe you're tired of other super PACs raising and spending unlimited amounts of cash from corporations and unions to sway elections and you're asking yourself, If you can't beat 'em, who not join 'em?

Not a problem. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court and Citizens United, anyone can start their own super PAC. And the best part: It doesn't cost a dime. Never mind the Steven Colbert super PAC's Super Fun Pack, which hilariously offers prospective activists, "All you need is a burning desire for civic engagement and $99."

Here's how to start your own super PAC. For free. Just by signing your John Hancock on a couple pieces of paper.

Step 1: Pick a Cause or Candidate

First things first. Your super PAC doesn't have to target a politician, though it certainly can. Restore Our Future Inc., for example, is the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC that spent considerable sums of cash in Election 2012 going after the former Massachusetts governor's Republican opponents, including Rick Santorum.

Your super PAC can raise awareness about a particular cause or issue such as hydraulic fracking, abortion or taxes. Yours can be a liberal super PAC or a conservative super PAC. Got a burning desire for civic engagement, as Colbert would put it, on a particular topic? Go for it.

Step 2: Pick a Clever Name for Your Super PAC

You'll want to name your super PAC something catchy. Something people will be able to easily remember when they break out their checkbooks. Already taken are Joe Six PAC, a super PAC that proclaims it is "for the average Joe;" the Sick and Tired of Washington super PAC, whose goals seem pretty obvious; and DogPAC, a super PAC representing "Dogs Against Romney." (See: Seamus Romney)

Step 3: Other Essentials for Starting Your Own Super PAC

All you need to create and run your official super PAC now are a bank account, a charming personality to raise all that money from corporations and unions, and a friend to serve as treasurer to keep track of your super PAC's fundraising and spending. Pick someone who is trustworthy and responsible. They'll need to file spending reports with the government.

Step 4: File the Paperwork

To officially launch your super PAC you will need to file what's called a Statement of Organization, or Form 1, with the Federal Election Commission. Check box 5(f) under "Type of Committee."

Also, write a short cover letter to the Federal Election Commission. Here's a sample. You'll want to be sure you make it clear your new committee will be functioning as a super PAC.

You can do that by including the following paragraph verbatim:

"This committee intends to make unlimited independent expenditures, and consistent with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision in SpeechNow v. FEC, it therefore intends to raise funds in unlimited amounts. This committee will not use those funds to make contributions, whether direct, in-kind, or via coordinated communications, to federal candidates or committees."

Make sure to include on your Statement of Organization your name, address, contact information, and the name of your super PAC and its treasurer.

Mail your form to:

Federal Election Commission
999 E. St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20463

Step 5: What To Do With Your Super PAC

As the proud new owner of a super PAC, you are permitted to raise unlimited amounts of money from people including your friends, neighbors and families. But you can also solicit money from political action committees, corporations and labor organizations.

You can turn around and use all that money to produce and air TV commercials or take out a massive billboard along a busy highway to roundly criticize a politician you don't like. Have fun and be creative!

A Note of Caution: What You Can't Do With Your Super PAC

This is pretty simple. You are not allowed to use all that money you've raised from corporations and unions to make "direct contributions" to candidates or their political action committees. You also can't take out TV ads or billboards in coordination with any of those candidates or their PACs. This is a fairly gray area, so play it safe and steer clear of planning your attacks with any candidate or elected official.

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