Court Rules Super PAC Not Quite Independent

Posted July 3, 2014 at 10:24am

A federal court has ruled that a super PAC making independent expenditures was not functionally distinct from its sister committee that was making contributions to candidates.  

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled  yesterday in Vermont Right to Life v. Sorrel.  Vermont Right to Life has two state accounts, one for a regular political committee that gives contributions, and one for a super PAC for making independent expenditures.  

The Court found that the two committees were “enmeshed financially and organizationally.” The two entities had shared staff and often made joint expenditures. The Court found the two had not been acting independently and thus must share the state’s limitations on contributions to candidates.  

At the federal level, hybrid Super PACs may exist, but there can be no coordination or mixing of funds between the arm making independent expenditures and the arm giving regular contributions. Without digging deep into the organizational structure and the reality of operating practices, it is hard to determine coordination.  

For example of how party committees and outside groups try to avoid coordination, see Roll Call’s article , “How Parties Communicate Without Coordination.