'Stand with Rand PAC' takes a stand

Prompted to change its name, committee tells federal government to buzz off

By

 Updated:

The "Stand with Rand PAC" is taking a stand against the government.

In a letter to the Federal Election Commission, the independent political committee today cheekily dismissed regulators' assertion that it can't use the name of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in its title unless the candidate himself formally authorizes it.

"This Committee ... is unaware that the late Ayn Rand, noted philosopher and author and of Atlas Shrugged, is seeking election to federal office," Stand with Rand PAC wrote. 

Striking a more serious tone, the committee also accused the FEC of "broad overreach." It argued that the agency "must allow the maximum of first amendment freedom of expression in political campaigns commensurate with Congress' regulatory authority."

Stand with Rand PAC's website features photos and quotations of Paul. It displays a t-shirt with Paul's silhouette hovering over the words "Stand with Rand." 

The Stand with Rand PAC further declares: "Examples of the types of candidates that we support include Senator Rand Paul, Senator Mike Lee, Senator Ted Cruz and Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Cuccinelli."

And Stand with Rand PAC isn't standing by itself in what's the latest legal kerfuffle involving political committees bucking federal laws that govern — and limit — political committees' names.

Recently, a group called Stop Pelosi PAC found itself crosswise with the FEC, as did an unrelated pro-Paul PAC called Rand PAC 2016.

Federal law states that “no unauthorized committee shall include the name of any candidate in its name."

But it also notes that "an unauthorized political committee may include the name of a candidate in the title of a special project name or other communication if the title clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate." What the law considers a "special project" or "other communication" is not defined.

Asked how his Ayn Rand argument squares with federal law, Stand With Rand PAC treasurer Dan Backer, who also keeps the Stop Pelosi PAC's books, replied, "You’re saying Rand Paul doesn’t stand with Ayn Rand?" 

The Stand with Rand PAC further argued in its letter to the FEC that "the use of just a first or last name is insufficient to trigger such a harsh restraint on speech." It gives the hypothetical example of "a youth-oriented PAC named Think Young," noting that such a group would share its name of three sitting congressmen "and would thus be impermissible."

Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center scoffed at the PAC's arguments.

"Any argument by the Stand with Rand PAC that the PAC is named after Ayn Rand, and not Sen. Rand Paul, is a ridiculous one that should be rejected with laughter by the FEC," Ryan said. "It is abundantly clear from the organization’s website that the PAC is named for Sen. Rand Paul."

The Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for various campaign reforms, has not decided whether it will file a complaint against Stand with Rand PAC with the FEC or any other agency, Ryan said.

The FEC itself could audit or take enforcement action against the Stand with Rand PAC, which organized early this year as a hybrid PAC, and as of June 30, had only raised $200.

Such PACs may raise unlimited amounts of money to independently support candidates while also raising limited amounts to give directly to candidates — so long as they keep separate books for each kind of activity.