It’s a hurly-burly campaign finance world out there, folks -- one crammed with eye-glazing terms such as “aggregate contribution limits,” “501(c)(4) tax-exempt groups” and “independent expenditures.” The Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to do away with limits on how many candidates and party committees a donor can give to just means that there will likely be even more complicated vehicles created to move money into politics.
What we need are some pithy names to describe these entities -- descriptive monikers that make sense to people who are not election law attorneys. Like, say, what our colleague at Roll Call, Eliza Newlin Carney, came up with in 2010 when -- then writing for the National Journal -- she hit upon a shorthand for “independent expenditure-only political action committee.” Maybe you heard of it? Yup, “super PAC” is now an accepted part of the English lexicon. It even made it into the dictionary this year.
So, Fix readers, this is your challenge: coin the term for the next “super PAC.” Maybe you’ll get into Merriam-Webster! And even if you don’t, you will have the pride of knowing you did your part to help make our arcane campaign finance system a little more accessible.
There are two categories for today’s contest:
1) "Outside groups"-- This anodyne term is used to refer broadly to super PACs and political active nonprofits. These groups are distinguished by the fact that they cannot coordinate with the parties or candidates and can accept unlimited contributions. (In the case of super PACs, those donations are all disclosed to the FEC. Nonprofits do not have to reveal their financial backers.) There are a couple of reasons why "outside groups" is an inadequate phrase, not the least of which because these organizations are increasingly the center of the action in races. But even more worrisome is the trend we have noticed in which the term "super PAC" is used to refer to all independent organizations. So what would be a better name for these influential political players? (Sub-challenge: Can anyone come up with a better way to describe “politically active nonprofits?”)
2) "Million-dollar joint fundraising committees" -- These are still theoretical, but opponents of the Court’s recent ruling in McCutcheon warn that the decision could lead to the creation of jumbo-sized joint fundraising committees, in which party committees and candidates band together to raise money and collect checks for as much as $3.6 million. Assuming these vehicles take off, or something like them, what should we call them?
File your submissions in the comment section below or on the Twitters with the hashtag #nextsuperpac, and we'll announce the winners next week.