Anti-Hillary groups to FEC: Take a hike

In battle over naming rights, one PAC using famed mountaineer to defend itself



A pair of anti-Hillary Clinton political committees are effectively telling the Federal Election Commission to take a long walk off a tall mountain.

The groups — Dick Morris's Just Say No to Hillary PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC — today in separate messages told the nation's federal campaign regulator that they won't comply with requests to change their names.

The tell-offs follow recent FEC letters that asked the groups to remove the "Hillary" from their monikers, citing federal law that states “no unauthorized committee shall include the name of any candidate in its name."

Federal law 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."

The law does not define what a "special project" or "other communication" exactly is — or isn't.

For Cleta Mitchell, an election lawyer representing Dick Morris' Just Say No to Hillary PAC, the law is clear enough. She argues the PAC "clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to [Clinton] by including in its name, title, communications and special projects the words 'Just Say No,' thereby showing opposition to a 'Hillary' candidacy."

Lawyer Dan Backer, meanwhile, was even more blunt in defending his client, the Stop Hillary PAC.

"This committee would encourage the FEC to vigorously investigate who it is that is so stupid that they would think a political committee named 'Stop Hillary PAC' is in any way an authorized committee of Hillary Clinton," he wrote.

Backer then added: "In anticipation of any further harassment of this Committee by partisan agents of any federal candidate intent on hypocritically gagging the opposition, the Committee preemptively advises that it is unaware of any effort by [famed mountaineer] Sir Edmund Hillary to seek federal office."

Stop Hillary PAC raised nearly $800,000 during 2014 and reported about $26,000 left in its account as of Dec. 31, according to federal disclosures. It has this year sponsored a modest number of advertisements advocating against Clinton, meaning it's raised at least some money during 2015 — it's not required to disclose how much until July.

The Dick Morris' Just Say No to Hillary PAC, meanwhile, hadn't raised or spent a cent through the end of 2014, federal records show.

The PAC is named for Dick Morris, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton whose since turned on the Clinton family and regularly speaks out against them as a columnist and TV commentator.

Backer, curiously, panned Morris' relevancy earlier this year when discussing his anti-Clinton PAC. He joked to Bloomberg's Dave Weigel that Morris best known for his cat food commercials and wondered whether he had died.

(Update, 4:30 p.m. June 3, 2015: The Dick Morris' Just Say No to Hillary PAC filed paperwork with the FEC to terminate its operations. It offered no explanation.)

(Update, 12:32 p.m. June 5, 2015: Morris has registered a new super PAC named Dick Morris' Just Say No to HER! PAC.)

In recent months, several political committees either voluntarily complied with federal PAC naming rules or agreed to follow them after prompting by the FEC.

Among them: pro-Clinton hybrid PAC Ready for Hillary PAC — it changed its name in April to Ready PAC when Clinton formally declared her presidential run — and pro-Sen. Elizabeth Warren super PAC Ready for Warren PAC, (now the Ready for Warren Presidential Draft Campaign).

The Stand With Rand PAC, managed by Backer's firm, DB Capitol Strategies, changed its name in April to SWR PAC after long resisting a change. Last year, the U.S. Senate campaign committee of Sen. Rand Paul trademarked the term "Stand with Rand."

But many other PACs have so far ignored the FEC. They include a gaggle of both pro- and anti-Clinton PACs, including Faith Voters for Hillary, Arriba Con Hillary PAC and Women Against Hillary PAC.

The FEC is on their cases, too. Don't, however, expect it to do much: The agency is mired in ideological gridlock, its six commissioners infrequently reaching consensus on anything more than perfunctory matters.

FEC could not immediately be reached for comment on how it plans to deal with committees that refuse its requests, and Clinton campaign officials didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Stop Hillary PAC, for its part, "is prepared to fight for its constitutionally protected rights as far as necessary," Backer told the Center for Public Integrity.

How far is far?

"We are girding our loins for battle," he added.

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