The Secret Money is Shifting to 501c4s

Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog instructs us on super pacs and 501c4s:

These days, I probably spend more time speaking to reporters (from as far away as Brazil and Italy) about Super PACs than about any other election law subject. There is a lot of misinformation floating out there about what Super PACs are, where they came from, the relationship to Citizens United, and the ability of super PACs to coordinate with candidates without running afoul of the FEC disclosure rules. For those looking for basic information from what I’ve written, I point reporters to my recent CNN oped, this blog post on whether Citizens United created Super PACs, and this blog post which highlights the kinds of coordination which are currently permissible under FEC rules.

. The Secret Money is Shifting to 501c4s, and It Demands a Legislative Response. Last night ace election lawyer Rob Kelner tweeted: “Biggest story today: Crossroads’ c4 raised more than its Super PAC. Confirming that media is missing the boat by focusing on Super PACs.”

My big concern before yesterday was that we would see a lot of transfers of money from 501c4s to affiliated Super PACs to shield the identity of donors to Super PACs. I’m still trying to get a handle on how much of this took place (apparently less than I thought). But the reason these transfers are not taking place is that it appears the 501c4s are engaging in much more direct election-related activity than they have in the past. That is, we are seeing some 501c4s becoming pure election vehicles. The relation of 501c4s to super pacs is now like the past relation between 527s and pacs—these are now the vehicles of questionable legality to influence elections. While Adam Skaggs is rightly focused on fixing the coordination rules for Super PACs, this seems to be fighting yesterday’s war already. The key is to stop 501c4s from becoming shadow super PACs. Yes, campaign finance reform community, it has become this bad: I want more super PACs, because the 501c4 alternative is worse…