the FEC has a verification problem
- Two recently created political committees appear to violate FEC regulations.
- A committee uses the name of a potential candidate without his permission. The other includes anti-Semitic language in its name.
- Despite violations, it can take regulators days or weeks to fix the issues.
On November 12, following a speech by retired Lt. Gen. HR McMaster at the Richmond Forum in Virginia, a man says he found himself so inspired he formed a political committee to support McMaster in the presidency in 2024.
His mistake? Name the PAC “RH McMaster for President.” Federal regulations generally prohibit committees from using the name of a potential nominee on behalf of their committee.
Then, two days after McMaster filed, another man filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to form a committee with completely different — and hostile — intentions. The campaign committee is called “Peter Y. Liu for US Senate 2024 Against Jewish Supremacy in America”. It appears to violate an FEC policy for the use of obscene language.
In the meantime, however, anyone perusing the latest federal government campaign documents could reasonably conclude that McMaster has launched a presidential race — he certainly hasn’t — or stumble upon official documents peppered with hate speech.
These are the latest examples of a series of shenanigans that have been going on for years in one of the federal government’s less traveled corridors. And it may be weeks before federal authorities do anything about it.
FEC spokesman Christian Hilland told Insider that the man who set up the pro-McMaster committee could fix his situation by changing the brief to an “editorial committee.” This allows someone to use the name of a potential candidate to essentially encourage them to run for office and raise funds to achieve that goal.
A notable example of this type of committee: the “Ready for Hillary” PAC, which promoted a presidential campaign for Hillary Clinton before she officially announced her intention to run for the White House in the 2016 election.
Peter Marcia, the man listed as having created the pro-McMaster committee, could not be reached for comment.
As for the name of Liu’s anti-Semitic committee, the FEC has a process to deal with that – but it’s long.
FEC Commissioners adopted a policy in 2016 for agency staff to report all political committees that include “fictional characters, obscene language, sexual references, celebrities (when there are no indication that the named celebrity submitted the record), animals or similar implausible entries” to their names.
The policy was partly born out of a wave of fake presidential candidates – led by an Iowa teenager who launched the “Deez Nuts” presidential campaign, but also Star Trek captain Jean-Luc Picard, Queen Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen,” former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Captain Crunch.
After reporting an alleged bogus political committee, the FEC then sends a verification letter to the filer informing them of the potential penalties and asking them to confirm or change their filing.
According to previous insider reports, if the committee doesn’t respond within 35 days or withdraws its documents, the FEC labels the committee “unverified” and moves the committee’s listing to a “download-only spreadsheet buried on the FEC website”. The FEC can also decide to “administratively terminate” a committee.
A web verification crisis
As the FEC slowly works to weed out hate and fake candidates from its databases, US politicians are also facing an influx of imposters on Twitter after its new owner, Elon Musk, set up new policies regarding verification status.
Musk, who took over the social media company in late October, made sure anyone – not just public figures, celebrities, journalists and politicians – could get the blue verification check mark on their user profile. for an initial payment of $8.
Shortly after Musk made this decision, verified accounts were created for the express purpose of impersonating past and present American leaders, such as President Joe Biden, Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Ed Markey.
Markey, who collaborated with The Washington Post to highlight how easy it is for anyone to create an account impersonating a public figure on Twitter, later chastised the platform and Musk for “putting profits before people and its debt rather than stopping misinformation”.
But it seems Musk isn’t taking the senator’s concerns to heart – the CEO replied mocking the leader.
And with Twitter struggling to moderate its user base, and the FEC taking its time dealing with the validity and content of election materials in its database, it’s probably just a matter of time before fake social media accounts intentionally or unintentionally endorse fake candidates for the 2024 election.