Supporters of Republican Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have launched “Rand PAC 2016.” But because the super PAC uses the potential presidential candidate’s first name, this action may violate federal law.
Three Hillary Clinton-themed super PACs established earlier this year could also find themselves in the same situation. Since, however, the former secretary of state is not officially a candidate for president or any other federal office, they are on safe ground — for now anyway.
Paul, on the other hand, has raised more than $600,000 for his 2016 re-election to the U.S. Senate, including $457,000 during the first quarter of 2013, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Federal law, in most cases, only permits political committees authorized by a candidate to use that candidate’s name — which super PACs, by definition, are not.
The regulations, though, are unclear about whether the use of a partial name would trigger a change.
This would be “a good area for the FEC to clarify its own rules,” Paul S. Ryan, an attorney at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, told the Center for Public Integrity.
An FEC spokesman directed questions to the agency’s chairman and vice chairman, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
The FEC typically sends a letter to a super PAC if it uses a candidate’s name. For example, during the 2012 GOP presidential primaries, the super PAC “Americans for Rick Perry” ran afoul of the rule and changed its name to “Restoring Prosperity Fund.”