A new group has formed to get money out of politics. But unlike typical “good government” groups, this new nonprofit is connected to a Republican lawyer with a case before the U.S. Supreme Court next month — McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission — arguing that wealthy Americans have the right to invest even larger sums of money in politics.
Virginia-based PoliticalRefund.org, which is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, wants to inform donors that they may request their money back should they become displeased with a candidate. It offers free resources on its website to do so.
There is, however, nothing in federal law that requires politicians to issue refunds.
Dan Backer, an attorney who has made his name as a proponent of campaign finance deregulation, serves as the group’s lawyer and is also a board member.
Business records further list Backer as PoliticalRefund.org’s registered agent, and he also registered the nonprofit’s website, according to Internet registry records.
“I decided to take the liberal speech police at their word that there is too much money in politics and am helping to get some out,” Backer told the Center for Public Integrity.
“The intent is to focus on those who make — and then break — campaign promises in such an egregious way” that frustrated donors might want refunds, he continued, adding that the new group will be nonpartisan. “Everyone hates politicians who lie.”
The group recently asked the Federal Election Commission for permission to use data contained in federal campaign finance reports to reach out to contributors.
Federal law prohibits FEC data from being used “used by any person for the purpose of soliciting contributions or for commercial purposes,” which PoliticalRefund.org says it will not be doing.
There is some precedent to Backer’s request.
In 2009, the conservative Club for Growth sought — and received — the FEC’s permission to contact donors to then-Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania after he left the GOP and became a Democrat. At the time, Specter had promised to voluntarily give back money to any contributor who desired a refund.
Your support is crucial!
Our newsroom needs to raise $121,000 by end of the year so we can hold the power accountable and strengthen our democracy in 2024. Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising. We depend on individuals like you to sustain quality journalism.