'Stop R.E.I.D. PAC' draws scrutiny of regulators

Another battle brewing as FEC says conservative group should change its name

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A conservative political action committee called "Stop R.E.I.D. PAC" is the latest target of the Federal Election Commission's name police.

Paul Stoetzer, a senior campaign finance analyst at the agency, recently told Stop R.E.I.D. PAC treasurer Dan Backer that he must "change the name of your political committee so that it does not include the candidate's name" — unless the outfit is authorized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., which it's not.

Fat chance, says Backer, a Virginia-based lawyer who's riding a measure of fame as the driving force behind McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court case that ended aggregate limits on campaign contributions to candidates, PACs and party committees earlier this month.

Backer told the Center for Public Integrity that the committee's name is, technically, Stop Reckless Economic Instability Caused by Democrats PAC. Therefore, he said, its acronym "happens to coincidently match the name of a particular candidate who the PAC sees as epitomizing all that is wrong with America."

It's the latest nomenclatural go-around between federal regulators and Backer, who has made a cottage industry out of challenging federal election laws and regulations. He has also drawn the FEC's ire of late for his involvement with groups named "Stop Pelosi PAC" and "Stand With Rand PAC."

As with Stop R.E.I.D. PAC, Backer has argued that these names don't clearly identify a specific candidate and therefore don't violate federal law — Stand With Rand, for example, could just as well reference economic theorist Ayn Rand, he said.

Beyond issuing warnings, the agency, to date, has not taken public action against Stop Pelosi PAC, Stand With Rand PAC or Stop R.E.I.D. PAC.

Asked about the flap, Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said: "Frankly this is not something we've discussed, and I don't think it's something we'd comment on. Sounds like it's between the group and the FEC."

Backer has until May 22 to formally respond to the FEC's inquiry.

Backer formed Stop R.E.I.D. PAC on March 11. He organized it as a hybrid super PAC — a single committee that operates both as a traditional PAC, which may make limited donations directly to political candidates, and a super PAC, which may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to independently advocate for or against candidates.

Through March 31, it raised about $3,700 and spent $1,900, according to federal filings.

Backer says that to date, the PAC has raised about $20,000 from 1,000 contributors. Filings covering the year's second quarter aren't due to the FEC until July 15.