‘Stop Pelosi PAC’ revs up for a legal battle

They just want to stop Pelosi.

And Pelosi wants them to stop using her name.

A political action committee based in Alexandria, Va., calling itself Stop Pelosi PAC has run afoul of the Federal Elections Commission, according to an article by the Center for Public Integrity published on the Huffington Post Tuesday.

nancypelosiFederal law prohibits “unauthorized” political action committees from using candidates’ names in their own titles.

“Americans have a right to expect all political action committees follow the law,” said Evangeline George, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader from California. “Clearly, this effort is in violation of the statute.”

Not surprisingly, Stop Pelosi PAC treasurer Dan Backer disagrees.

“The commission seems to be taking an unreasonably narrow reading of the law to serves no purpose other than to curtail free speech — in this case, the speech of those who have the audacity to not support the dear leader from San Francisco,” Backer said.

“FEC regulations are being used to protect entrenched incumbents.”

The PAC, Backer said, has no plans to change its name, though it has until Oct. 17 to respond to the FEC or face enforcement action.

Backer, founder of the Washington-based political law firm DB Capitol Strategies, has not named the clients behind the Stop Pelosi PAC, but said they are deciding whether to challenge the FEC interpretation of the law.

They should, and here’s why.

The law does allow political action committees to use opponents names in a way legally known as a “project.” For instance, in an example cited in the Center for Public Integrity article, a PAC opposed to Pelosi could have a generic name, but set up a StopNancyPelosi.com website.

That’s nonsense, the kind of hairsplitting that’s inevitable when regulators like the FEC somehow get the power to interpret something as crystal clear as “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech ….”

That doesn’t say “no law except for candidates’ names.”

It’s an interesting question, though, and would get more interesting if two people from opposite ends of the political spectrum shared a name.

For instance, if an extremely liberal Central Florida Democrat lawmaker was named Joe Saunders, while a staff writer for a Florida-based conservative Republican website was also named Joe Saunders (but not a candidate protected by federal law) and both wanted to establish political action committees, what would the law say?

A better question though, is what would the First Amendment say?

“No law abridging the freedom of speech” means exactly that.

 

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