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Rapper donor, mystery million and other fun finds in pop-up PAC filings

by Sunlight Reporting Group

(Updated 8:42 a.m. Oct. 16)

Grammy-winning rapper Prakazrel Michel, known as Pras, can now add 'political activism' to his long list of talents. Michel is the only reported donor to super PAC Black Men Vote. He ponied up $250,000.

It's just one of the interesting nuggets turned up by the Sunlight Reporting Group's examinations of filings by super PACs that made their first-ever unveilings of donors Monday, as reports from committees that file on a quarterly schedule were due at the Federal Election Commission. Sunlight has identified nearly two dozen committees that surfaced as independent spenders since the last quarterly filings became available. We'll be updating this post as we learn more about them, and some of our old favorites.

Meanwhile, back to Black Men Vote and it's patron: According to Sunlight Foundation databases, Michel has not made any other political contributions. The hip hop artist is best known for founding the Fugees, along with Lauryn HIll and Wyclef Jean. Black Men Vote was founded mid-September and has only begun spending in the last two weeks. So far, all of its expenditures have gone to support President Barack Obama, but the group has a larger goal. 

As the name sugests, its aim is to increase voter participation among black men. "We are targeting 18 to 34-year-old black men who are primarily first-time voters and unlikely voters", says Jeff Johnson, a Black Entertainment Television on-air personalilty and consultant to the super PAC, in an interview with Huffington Post. "They, very frankly, are not really engaged by many of the ads we see on the air by the campaigns." 

Despite the profiles of both Michel and Johnson, the organization has worked quietly with little media attention. Of the $250,000 in start up cash, $180,000 has been spent on radio ads to influence the presidential election. 

Johnson mentions other large and small donors giving to Black Men Vote, though none were disclosed in the most recent filing, which covers through Sept. 30. And while he also talks about funding a ground campaign to mobilize voters, no non-advertising expenditures have been made. 

Other interesting findings from the quarterly filings at the FEC:

Mystery million

Republican Union PAC picked up a cool $1 million from Sherry Huff. Unlike most campaign givers at that level, Huff has no record of donating to any state or federal campaign on Influence Explorer. Huff, who lives in Georgia, is listed as an employee of AccountPros Inc.

Republican Union used the majority of the money to buy billboards opposing Obama, citing his stance on same-sex marriage and abortion.

Huff has not yet returned request for comment.

More money we'd like to know more about

The Service Employees International Union reported collecting more than $7 million during the last three months -- and didn't name a single donor. The labor giant lists all of its contributions as "unitemized," meaning they were given in increments of less than $200. The Federal Election Commission does not require committees to list names of small donors, though some do.  

SEIU is one of this year's campaign heavy hitters: The $9 million it has spent so far earns it the No. 9 spot on Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money list of big-spending super PACs. While the SEIU is making its biggest expenditures in the presidential race, it is also working on behalf of a large number of Senate and House candidates, most, if not all Democrats. 

On its third quarter filing, the SEIU super PAC also lists more than $5 million in debts -- all owed to union affiliates and their allies for expenses related to get-out-the-vote activities.

Same friends donate to super PAC

Less surprising, longtime supporters of politicians are supporting their favorites through super PACs. One of example is Harold Matzner’s donation to a super PAC that buys ads against Dr. Raul Ruiz, the Democrat challenging Rep. Mary Bono-Mack, R-Calif.

Monday's filings with the FEC showed that the Palm Springs restaurant owner donated $30,800 to Californian’s for a Stronger America. That's on top of $56,000 that Matzner gave Bono’s political committees since 2000, according to Influence Explorer.

Capitol Words, Sunlight's tool that tracks lawmakers' speeches on the floor of Congress, reveals that Mack thinks her donor is a great guy. As she put it in a speech about a philanthropy award that he received:  ”Harold's generosity is legendary.”

Stealth PAC, Trump and Starr help Boehner super PAC

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC linked to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, reported receiving in-kind contributions for rent and payroll amounting to more than $128,000 from the American Action Network, a politically active nonprofit that doesn't disclose its donors. Donald Trump contributed $100,000, and two companies that were once part of the American International Group's empire of insurance, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc. and Starr Insurance Holdings Inc., combined to give $25,000. Both companies are led by Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, who, as AIG's CEO, presided over the financial deals that led to the company's collapse. 

All in the family?

Another super PAC that unveiled donors for the first time today, America Shining, turns out to have just one: Shaw Chen, who happens to have the same last name as Jay Chen, the candidate who has benefited from almost all of the super PAC's spending. Almost all of the more than $570,000 that America Shining has reported spending so far has gone to support Democrat Jay Chen's bid to unseat his former boss, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif. 

Shaw Chen, who has also made donations this year to the Obama campaign, listed his employer as Hyde Park Capital, a Tampa-based investment banking firm that is also hope to some top Florida Republicans, where two unsuccessful Democratic candidates for the state's governorship also work: Bill McBride and Alex Sink. 

Despite the largesse of America Shining, the non-partisan Cook Political Report rates Royce a solid bet to hold onto the House seat he has occupied for the last 20 years.

Pro-Allen West group's underwriter identified

It turns out the man behind the secretive super PAC that has become the main outside attack dog for Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., is a New Jersey pharmaceutical executive Richard Roberts. Roberts gave $1 million to Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition, comprising all but $81,000 of its warchest.

In all, the West-Murphy race has attracted more than $3.1 million outside money--$1.5 million backing West, an outspoken freshman with a national Tea Party following, and $1.7 million supporting his Democratic opponent, Patrick Murphy.

Treasure Coast only started spending in late September, meaning it could legally wait to reveal its donors until Monday, when third quarter filings were due at the Federal Election Commission. the group has launched TV ads tying Murphy to the controversial Obama stimulus program.

As recently as Friday, the group’s treasurer, James E. Tyrrell III, an attorney at Clark Hill who used to work for the RNC and Republican FEC Commissioner Donald McGahn, declined to say who is behind the group.

Roberts, whom Monday's FEC filings identify as Treasure Coast's chief underwriter, was the longtime chairman and CEO of URL Pharmaceuticals, which also went by the name Mutual Pharmaceutical Company. The company was sold to Takeda, a Japanese firm, in June for $800 million, after profits skyrocked in 2009 when URL took advantage the Federal Drug Administration's Unapproved Drug program to receive three-year market exclusivity for a drug to treat acute gout. According the Philadelphia Inquirer, URL raised the price of the drug from 9 cents to $5 per pill, "causing a furor in the medical community as the company's revenue and profit swelled." Roberts now lists himself as a senior advisor to Mutual on his most recent campaign finance disclosures. 

Roberts may also have ties to one of Romney's leading donors, billionaire hedge fund executive Paul Singer, who runs Elliott Management. It was one of his hedge funds, Elliott Associates, that bought a majority interest in URL in 1997. As part of the deal, Roberts became the company's chairman, president and CEO, the Inquirer reported.

In August. Roberts also gave $500,000 to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, which has also received $1 million from Singer. Roberts has given at least $554,000 directly to political candidates and committees in the past, including multiple large checks to West, who is a freshman congressman. Roberts is also the sole donor of a super PAC called Nebraska United, which has not spent a penny of his $10,000 donation, according to FEC records.

(Contributing: Jake Harper, Lindsay Young, Jacob Fenton, Bill Allison, Keenan Steiner, Kathy Kiely)