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Carl DeMaio Launches Super PAC

Photo caption: Carl DeMaio and his partner Johnathan Hale surrounded by DeMaio's supporters ...

Photo by Angela Carone

Carl DeMaio and his partner Johnathan Hale surrounded by DeMaio's supporters on election night at the U.S. Grant in downtown San Diego, Nov. 4, 2014.

Former GOP congressional candidate Carl DeMaio has launched a super PAC. What it's up to is anyone's guess.

Carl DeMaio, 2014 political candidate? Kaput.

Carl DeMaio, 2016 political rainmaker? Maybe.

The erstwhile Republican challenger to recently re-elected Democratic Congressman Scott Peters of San Diego has filed documents to start a super PAC.

According to paperwork received Friday by the Federal Election Commission, the PAC is named New Generation Leadership Fund and DeMaio is listed as the group’s designated agent and “manager.”

As a super PAC, the fund is able to raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and entities such as corporations and unions. It can then take that money and spend unlimited amounts of it on everything from television advertisements to polls supporting and opposing candidates for office.

Filling out a five-page application is all that’s required to start a super PAC. And the application need not say how the money will be spent.

Super PACs are banned from coordinating that spending with candidates and banned from making contributions directly to candidates’ campaign committees.

DeMaio did not respond to a voicemail and email seeking comment about the New Generation Leadership Fund.

So, what might DeMaio want with a super PAC?

Gary Jacobson, a political science professor at UC San Diego specializing in congressional elections, said controlling a super PAC offers DeMaio a couple of possibilities.

On the one hand, DeMaio could use the super PAC as a virtual second campaign committee for a 2016 congressional race.

“He could start a super PAC, hand it off to somebody else and start raising money as a candidate,” Jacobson said.

By starting the super PAC now, DeMaio would have plenty of time to staff it with loyalists and discuss strategy for a potential 2016 run before formally announcing his candidacy and having to cease strategy discussions with the group.

And even after DeMaio officially filed to run, he could still ask supporters to donate to the super PAC, as per FEC regulations (see section 3).

On the other hand, DeMaio could use the super PAC as a vehicle to realize a longer-term political agenda.

“It may be just a strategy of maintaining an active profile out in the political world, collecting money from people, passing it out to others and incurring some obligations along those lines,” Jacobson said.

Those obligations, presumably, would be support for a DeMaio campaign in 2018 or later.

The filing was first reported on Twitter by a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, a national investigative journalism nonprofit.

According to a 2012 FEC advisory opinion, former candidates for public office may transfer unspent funds from their old campaign committees to super PACs.

That means DeMaio could use some or all of the unspent money from his 2014 run as seed money for New Generation Leadership Fund.

According to the latest campaign finance report filed by DeMaio’s campaign, he still had about $69,000 in cash on hand as of Nov. 24. The campaign had no outstanding debt at the time.

Regardless of what DeMaio’s plans are for his new super PAC, Jacobson said it’s clear the former San Diego city councilman, who has run unsuccessfully for mayor and now a seat in Congress, is not going anywhere.

“I have no idea what his ambitions are but it looks like he wants to stay an active player in electoral politics, and this is one strategy for doing it,” Jacobson said.

inewsource is a KPBS media partner.

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