Cary Lee Peterson — a self-described “congressional lobbyist and election campaign guru” who pleaded not guilty to securities fraud charges last month after the FBI arrested him in March — was released from federal custody on June 10 after posting a $200,000 secured bond.
Federal authorities released Peterson into the custody of his mother, who lives in Arizona. Court records show Peterson is currently subject to electronic monitoring and a daily curfew. Furthermore, Peterson was required to forfeit his passport — he regularly traveled abroad — and to resolve other, unrelated warrants for his arrest.
But Peterson first had other business. Within days of his release, he registered two new political groups with the Federal Election Commission: a political action committee called the Alliance Against Disabled Inmate Abuse and a super PAC called Democrats Socially United, which is backing Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to its nascent website, Democrats-United.org.
By law, super PACs are allowed to raise unlimited sums of money and spend that cash to advocate for or against political candidates. They may also operate without candidates’ permission and face few regulations on how they spend their funds. These factors have made super PACs attractive vehicles for professional political operatives — as well as less ideologically driven individuals hoping to profit off of popular candidates.
Peterson, who did not respond to questions related to this story, launched Ready for Bernie Sanders 2016 last year, which he later renamed Bet on Bernie. He settled on a third name — Americans Socially United — after regulators made him remove references to Sanders, per federal rules that allow committees to use a candidate’s name only if authorized by the candidate.
Americans Socially United’s most notable donor was actor Craig, who gave the super PAC $47,300 last July after donating the legal maximum of $2,700 to Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Craig, last year, told the Center for Public Integrity that he made the contribution in “in good faith” to support Sanders’ candidacy, apparently unaware of Peterson’s checkered past.