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Data Snacks: Pop-up PACs

This sounds like something fun.

A frozen dessert, an ‘80s video game?

It’s not.

Pop-up PACs are designed to work around campaign finance deadlines. They will file as a PAC a day or so after the last reporting date before an election or before ballots drop. The donations and expenditures are not spontaneous. These are pre-planned groups typically focused on negative advertising against an opponent.

Create the PAC, dump money in, spend it immediately trashing a candidate or issue, shut down the PAC. Done.

In Federal contests there are strict reporting rules about donations close to the election making it almost impossible to generate funds quick enough to respond to negative allegations. PACs, including a newly formed Pop-up PAC, are not subject to those restrictions.

Money for late cycle negative advertising is not unusual. In 2020 Arizona voters were asked to vote on the Invest in Education Act (Proposition 208). It would have imposed an additional income tax on extreme income earners to fund education. It seemed headed for passage. Days before the ballots dropped hundreds (thousands) of “No on 208” signs appeared everywhere. $500,000 was donated to the No on 208 PAC in the final hours by a single individual using multiple business names in Utah and Iowa. Prop 208 DID pass, but it was far closer than expected. ……and then it was overturned.

In 2022 we witnessed a late minute infusion of cash into two very right-wing School Board candidates in Scottsdale. It amounted to about $50,000 each. It worked.

What makes Pop-up PACs different than typical late cycle donations is you have no idea who is behind it until the first campaign finance report – AFTER the election.

The definition of “snipe” is to attack from a hidden place. This is sniping. Expect more of it.

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