Undercover journalist at CPAC misrepresents hybrid PACs

What are hybrid PACs good for? If the undercover reporter had asked, we would have told him. It turns out, they're pretty useful. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2013 — “Thank you for identifying yourself as media,” I suddenly found myself saying as media personnel flooded the DB Capitol Strategies CPAC booth on the final days of the conservative conference.

I certainly learned my lesson after an undercover journalist published his snarky article criticizing our firm for attending CPAC. How dare we offer conservative activists access to a practical advocacy tool at a price they can afford!

Admittedly, the article attracted mass traffic to our booth by those eager to learn how one notoriously biased online media organization gleefully misrepresents the conservative movement.

But, “what would you do with a hybrid PAC?” writes the undercover journalist.  He’d not bothered to ask that while there in person, and I would have been happy to answer had he actually took the time to sit down and seriously discuss how hybrids PACs are effectively used by policy advocates (instead his sixty second stop sufficiently served his purpose).

A hybrid political action committee (PAC) is an excellent tool for political activists to affect both elections in the moment, and policy in the long term. And, yes, all it takes is two bank accounts (and understanding how to use them to achieve your goals)! You clearly need to comply with federal election law, and of course, an experienced election law attorney can best provide tips on how to avoid common mistakes that could get you in trouble with ever increasingly complex government regulations (one of the many points conveniently missing from the article).

Hybrid PACs were created in 2011, after Dan Backer, principal attorney for DB Capitol Strategies, led a successful suit on behalf of retired Rear Admiral James Carey and his National Defense PAC against the Federal Election Commission. Carey v. FEC resulted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issuing a consent judgment which supported the simple principle that if you can have traditional PACs and Super PACs, you could do both without the added burden of a second legally distinct entity.

You only need two separate bank accounts, each of which must pay a percentage of administrative costs corresponding to the percentage of activity from that account. One account is used solely for candidate contributions from funds contributed by individuals only up to $5,000, and the second account can accept unlimited contributions from both individuals and incorporated entities for independent expenditure speech – public advocacy on issues.

Hybrid PACs offer a unique opportunity not only to support the election of candidates through traditional contributions and grassroots advocacy, but also the ability to change policy through long-term grass roots engagement after the Election Day. Elections are moments in time; policy is what happens in between, and activists are all too often disappointed by the policies they get when they go home between elections.  Unlike other election law attorneys unfamiliar with the hybrid PAC model (like whomever set up Ambassador Bolton’s PACs), DB Capitol Strategies understands a PAC’s need to focus on both elections AND policy in order to effectively advocate for change.  

DB Capitol Strategies supports various successful political organizations that were started by a single individual with little more than a vision. In today’s government intrusive society, we cannot just sit back and trust that the government will properly spend our tax dollars in our interests without vigilance and public advocacy. The thousands of CPAC attendees are evidence that the “Average Joe” wants to take action! He is just looking for the proper tools and knowledge.


Christina Sirois is an associate at DB Capitol Strategies, a campaign finance and political law firm located on Capitol Hill.



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Christina Sirois

Christina Sirois is an associate at DB Capitol Strategies, a campaign finance and political law firm located on Capitol Hill. She is a member of the Virginia State Bar. She received her dual B.A. in English and Justice Studies, with honors, from North Carolina Wesleyan College and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law.  


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