How to start a Super PAC because you can

(AP Photo/The Tri-City Herald, Sarah Gordon)
(Sarah Gordon/The Tri-City Herald via AP)

A super PAC filed its statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission in late January, but never raised any money and went out of business this week.

So the Loop reached out to its treasurer, Grant Sgarlata, to find out why.

He called us back between third and fourth period.

Grant, a 17-year-old junior at Fred Page High School in Franklin, Tenn., and his two buddies, didn’t believe that just anyone could start a super PAC, especially a bunch of kids. So they started to do some research and found out pretty quickly that yes, anyone can.

“It’s this big influential thing, and then I realized there’s no requirements for it and I thought that was entirely ridiculous,” Grant, whose teacher let him miss the beginning of fifth period for this interview, told the Loop. “It’s not even a process to get these forms, you just go on the Internet and print them out. It’s ridiculous that anyone can control one of these potentially influential pieces of government.”

A few clicks on Google, and Grant had all the information he needed to start the “Because We Can Super PAC.” He downloaded the forms from the FEC Web site and filled them out in less than an hour. That’s when the fun really started.

The three boys aimed to make their application as “ridiculous as possible,” Grant said. He picked “Corporate Antelope” as his official title or position. His friends Brady Harper and Hudson Roberts are “Arch-Mage” and “Not Pope,” respectively. They left blank the section asking for the bank accounts where they would deposit funds, because, well, the teens don’t have bank accounts. They created a Web site using the free service “Weebly.” (It’s currently blank other than a background of the Manhattan skyline and the PAC’s name.)

Within several days, Grant received the notice from the FEC that his application had been received. And just like that, “Because We Can” was given an official committee ID number.

“We were doing it literally because we could. That we could just walk up, get this thing and that was it. There’s no way they reviewed it whatsoever. I find that very ridiculous,” Grant said.

The boys never intended to raise any money or support a candidate, (Grant considers himself an independent and thinks it’s too early to pick a side for 2016.) but they did hope to use their new Web site for political satire. They had made up a seal logo with a platypus and the words “inserere alienus sermo hic,” which translates to “insert foreign language here.”

The FEC contacted Grant at the end of February — a month after his committee was christened — and said that a “preliminary review” of his committee showed he hadn’t listed a “campaign depository.” Thinking the gig might be up, he filed a termination request.

“I think what is amazing about this to me is it originated as a joke, we looked at the forms and said, ‘This can’t really be this easy.’ ” Grant said. “If it is that easy, then there is something wrong with the system in place to get this.”

Ellen Weintraub, an FEC commissioner, confirmed for the Loop that there is “no hurdle” to creating a super PAC. If the paperwork is filled out, the FEC doesn’t scrutinize the statements of organization. Everyone who wants to be a part of a political process can be, she said.

And that includes three wise guys who aren’t yet old enough to vote.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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