A new type of Super PAC has filed registration papers with the Federal Election Commission, saying it plans both to accept unlimited contributions for independent expenditures and, using a separate bank account, to take in limited donations to be used for direct contributions to candidates.
Until now, Super PACs and traditional PACs have been separate. Super PACs, or independent-expenditure-only committees, can accept contributions of unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations and labor unions as long as the Super PAC does not make contributions to candidates. Traditional PACs are subject to limits on the amounts and sources of contributions, but they can pass money on to candidates.
The new hybrid, Efficient America PAC, submitted its statement of organization this week.
The filing references a court case, Carey v. FEC, that concerns a plan by another PAC to set up a single committee with segregated bank accounts — one to hold contributions subject to the traditional limits, the other to hold unlimited contributions.
The case arose after the PAC, National Defense PAC, asked the FEC for an Advisory Opinion regarding its plan. The FEC voted on two draft Advisory Opinions, but neither got enough votes for approval.
The founder of Efficient America PAC, Lee O'Neal, said the organization was formed to support energy-efficiency legislation.
O'Neal said the group does not plan to explicity support or oppose candidates with its independent expenditures. "Independent expenditures will be to make people aware of bills that are showing up," he said. "We will be making donations to candidates that are supporting or sponsoring the legislation."
Most contributions will be made online, he said, with separate forms for each bank account. One form will be for limited contributions from individuals; the other will be for Super PAC contributions.
O'Neal serves on the board of directors of Residential Energy Services Network, a 501(c)3 organization, but Efficient America PAC is not affiliated with that organization, he said.
Residential Energy Services spent $20,000 in each of the first two quarters of this year on lobbying, according to reports filed by its lobbying firm, Cardenas Partners. According to the reports, the firm lobbied the House, the Senate and the Department of Energy regarding energy-efficiency issues.
O'Neal says he followed the lead of his lawyer, Neil Reiff, in setting up Efficient America PAC in the way he did. "I talked with the FEC to make sure they weren't going to reject it and got indications that they weren't," said Reiff, noting that the discussion with the FEC on the matter was informal. Reiff's profile on his law firm's website says he held several positions with the Democratic National Committee and that he has "successfully represented numerous clients before the Federal Election Commission and various state election agencies." An IRS filing from 2004 shows that Reiff was also the custodian of records for MoveOn.org Voter Fund, a 527 group.
The FEC's press office said that its analysis division looks at each new filing and determines whether it is valid. A spokesman said the commission would not comment on a specific case.