Super PAC Profile: CREDO takes aim at House freshmen
The CREDO SuperPAC exists in spite of—or because of?—its own desire to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that led to the creation of super PACs. “We wouldn't launch this SuperPAC unless we felt it was absolutely necessary to fight back,” says the group's website. But this sort of self-loathing isn’t the group's only unusual trait. Among organizations whose purpose is to obscure funding sources, CREDO is unique in its transparency.
For one thing, the group's name conspicuously excludes words like ‘freedom,‘ ‘future,’ ‘fund’ and ‘restore,' (see a list here) and makes clear its connection to CREDO Mobile, both in name and funding. The CREDO SuperPAC was launched in January by the wireless provider, originally established in 1985 as alternative credit card company Working Assets Funding Service. The business generated millions in donations to progressive nonprofits and eventually expanded into telephones and started activist campaigns to influence policymakers on the 2000 election, the Iraq War, Keystone XL and other issues. CREDO attacks phone companies AT&T and Verizon for their contributions to conservative groups and politicians.
Unlike other super PACs, CREDO SuperPAC doesn't evade donor disclosure by channeling funds through 501(c)4 organizatons, and reports every contribution over $200. So far almost $1.2 million of a total $2.1 million have come from donations smaller than $200. According to the group's president, Becky Bond, it has received money from more than 43,000 individual donors, averaging less than $20 per donation.
The group’s goals are equally transparent. In addition to banning corporate money from politics, the CREDO superPAC hopes to "Take Down the Tea Party Ten." On its website, eight freshmen congressmen are labeled with nicknames like "Beyond Crazy" (Allen West, R-Fla.) and "The Ultimate Embarrassment" (Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.), along with a paragraph explaining CREDO's beef with each politician. Sunlight is taking look at the records of House freshmen as they face their first reelection bid.
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Credo's final two freshmen targets have yet to be announced, but in an email, Bond says they are close to choosing them. "We’re looking at a handful of Republicans who have a proven record of championing extremist Tea Party values and are vulnerable for defeat in 2012."
According to Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money, before June 30 the CREDO SuperPAC had spent only $820 on independent expenditures, to oppose Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., and Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H. It focused instead on its "direct grassroots operation." to fund staff, pay office expenses, and recruit volunteers for its eight (of ten eventual) field offices.
However, spending behavior by the group has recently changed. CREDO SuperPAC reported more than $45,000 in independent expenditures for July. While most super PAC spending goes to media production and ad buys, CREDO's reports show independent expenditures for phones, payroll, printing and signs — indications that Credo is putting most of its money into grassroots campaigning. "As we ramp up our voter contact phase of our operation, our reports will show increasing amounts spent on direct communications with voters and thus a higher level of independent expenditures," Bond said.
While the reports seem to signal a new phase in CREDO's operation, the amount is still relatively small. The group plans to raise another $1.4 million, and even without further contributions, it still has more than $700,000 to spend in the months leading up to the election.
CREDO's stance toward Citizens United would suggest plans for deactivation following the election. Bond says the organization has no post-election plans, but offered that they hope to keep fighting the Supreme Court decision. "This is a top priority for CREDO now and will continue to be a top priority after the election."