Super PAC Evades Disclosure, Spends Big Against Pennsylvania GOP Senate Hopeful

Freedom Fund for America’s Future website

Freedom Fund for America’s Future website

Tomorrow, Pennsylvania Republicans will vote in a primary to select their challenger to Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D). The five GOP candidates on the ballot include former coal mining CEO Tom Smith, biotechnology CEO Steve Welch, and former state Rep. Sam Rorher. While these candidates have been campaigning for months, a new Super PAC (seemingly aligned with Welch) has stormed onto the scene — and is taking advantage of its last-minute formation to circumvent disclosure rules.

On March 19, Washington, DC-based campaign finance compliance specialist David Satterfield filed a statement of organization for a new Super PAC named “Freedom Fund for America’s Future Inc.” The form did not name anyone else associated with the committee and included the URL for the group’s virtually-empty website.

On April 13, the group filed a quarterly disclosure statement listing no expenses or contributions through March 31, 2012. Three days later, it filed an amendment, revealing a $5,000 in-kind contribution of legal services from a Harrisburg, PA political consulting firm.

After the quarterly filing period was over, the group sprung into action. Last Thursday, it reported to the Federal Election Committee that it had spent $145,000 on a media buy aimed at opposing candidate Tom Smith. Friday, it reported another $30,145. Both payments went to a political ad firm which also is working for the Welch campaign. The firm’s managing partner claims there is a firewall between its work for Welch and its super PAC work for the anti-Smith Super PAC.

Watch the Freedom Fund for America’s Future Inc. attack ad against Smith:

Though the ad ends with a disclaimer that “Freedom Fund for America’s Future is responsible for the content” of the spot, Pennsylvania voters have no way of knowing that that means. The group has not disclosed a single contributor to the $175,000-plus ad buy. The group has not identified a board of directors or a chairman — only the little-known Satterfield. The group did not respond to multiple requests by ThinkProgress to identify the sources of its funding.

Because the group is a Super PAC, it will have to disclose its donations eventually (unlike 501(c)(4) groups like Crossroads GPS). But on a quarterly filing schedule, voters may not know the source of these contributions for months. And, with the primary tomorrow, that will be of little value to the citizens hoping to evaluate the credibility of people behind the ad before they case their ballots.

In his controversial 5-4 majority opinion in the Citizens United case, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote “Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations.” But with a Federal Election Commission not enforcing existing disclosure laws and Congressional Republican opposition to any legislative remedies, Freedom Fund for America’s Future’s example is clear evidence that voters no longer even have that.