The PAC-naming business could use a little imagination.
The Federal Election Commission recently released its list of “Pacronyms,” which are the “acronyms, abbreviations, initials and common names” for federal political action committees that go by a nickname.
A perusal of the 59 pages of names indicates a severe lack of creativity. Most businesses and organizations simply use their own name, which we suppose makes sense from a marketing perspective, but it’s really boring.
And many members of Congress, for their leadership PACs, use the same tactic employed to name legislation — forced acronyms. Like the one for Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.): TIPTON PAC “Taking an Independent Perspective Together for Our Nation.” Or for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.): MICHELE PAC “Many Individual Conservatives Helping Elect Leaders Everywhere.”
But we did find a few out-of-the-box thinkers, or at least some who tried to be clever or have fun with the task.
1. Several of the organizations use a play on “backpack.”
For example, Rep. Randy Weber (R-Tex.) has his BAC PAC (“Building American Conservatism”). A Florida building and construction trade union also uses BAC PAC.
2. There is an entire PAC devoted to businessmen with facial hair.
Naturally, its name is BEARD “Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy.” It has just $52 on hand.
3. There’s one ode to a dead rapper.
The FEC received a statement of organization last month for a Tu PAC. This appears to be the only Tu PAC on file.
4. A few PACs use the ambiguous “X.”
But only one X PAC caught our attention: The “Extraterrestrial Phenomena” PAC. As of last year it had raised $45, but it has no cash. It does, however, have a Web site that claims it was going to get involved in the 2014 election to encourage candidates to have congressional hearings with “extraterrestrial phenomena witnesses.” Its mission is “to end the government embargo of facts confirming the presence of extraterrestrial life forms in our world.”
Well, in a close race, some folks wouldn’t at all mind help from an extraterrestrial voter or two.
Favorite Ben Bradlee story: Dec. 20, 1989. Bradlee is furious because The Washington Post is not in the Pentagon press pool with troops invading Panama. Immediately orders up a Learjet (out of Cleveland? Detroit?) to take four Spanish-speaking reporters down there.
Cost? Who knows, who cares? We arrive the next morning. The press is staying at Quarry Heights Military Reservation, crawling around, filing stories.
After a day or two, a colonel finally orders no more wandering, no more using pay phones. (No cells then.)
I complain to Bradlee.
“What did you do?” the furious colonel screams at me.
Ben always had our backs.
Nearly two years ago, when the House Ethics Committee issued its report on conflict-of-interest allegations against Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), the panel made a suggestion: The House needed to more clearly define what constitutes a conflict of interest.
The committee in December 2012 recommended “that the conflict of interest rules be committed to a task force for review, and that the task force issue clear, thorough, and comprehensive rules pertaining to conflicts of interest that the House community can readily understand and abide by.”
An official task force was never formed, but the Ethics Committee did convene a “working group” in May 2013 to “make recommendations for clarification.” (We’re told a “task force” is set up by House leadership, while a “working group” can be put together by a committee. Okay . . .)
The independent Office of Congressional Ethics recently released a report on Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and allegations that he broke conflict-of-interests rules — the third such case in the last two years. As in the first two, in Berkley’s and one involving Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the OCE recommended the House ethics panel investigate further “as there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Petri improperly performed official acts on behalf of companies in which he had a financial interest, in violation of House rules and standards of conduct.”
Petri, who is not running for reelection, denies any wrongdoing. Indeed, he requested the review and issued a statement that “I remain confident that the committee will find that I acted properly, and that I reasonably sought, relied on, and followed the committee’s advice and that I complied with House rules.”
At issue is Petri’s contacting the Defense Department on behalf of a large contractor in his district, a company in which he owned stock. But Petri says that he was forthcoming about it and that he intervened to protect constituent jobs.
That’s the gray area. As a member of Congress, even if you have a financial or personal connection to a business or program in your district, isn’t it still your job to represent its interests? Some would say no, it’s a conflict of interest. Others would say those constituents still deserve representation.
Craig Holman, a lobbyist at Public Citizen, said such a task force “is sorely needed” to cut through ambiguity.
“Conflict-of-interest violations are some of the most troublesome and common ethics transgressions,” he said. “Currently the House ethics process relies on formal complaints to expose such problems on a case-by-case basis, Holman said, and the Ethics Committee should provide clearer guidelines as to what constitutes conflicts of interest so members can avoid these pitfalls in the future.”
This is the week that many in the State Department hoped would never come — the week when Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns hung up his pinstripes.
Not that it was a surprise. In April, when Burns, a 32-year Foreign Service veteran and only the second career diplomat to rise to the deputy’s slot, announced his intent to go, Secretary of State John Kerry called him a “diplomatic legend,” comparing him to the likes of George Kennan and Chip Bohlen.
Burns has been undersecretary of state for political affairs, assistant secretary for the Middle East, and ambassador to Russia and to Jordan.
Foggy Bottom chatter has it that Wendy Sherman, undersecretary for political affairs, may move up to deputy, or the White House favorite, deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken, might move over to State. (That would help the environment: He could carpool with his wife, Evan Ryan, who is assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.)
Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz
Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly said Area 51 is in Arizona. Anyone who knows anything about the federal government site — long the focus of conspiracy theorists and aficionados of extraterrestrial life — is well aware that Area 51 is located in Nevada. The only mystery here was our error.