At yesterday’s public meeting, the FEC voted unanimously to approve three advisory opinions, including one requested by the internet startup Crowdpac. The company, which was represented by a bipartisan team of Perkins Coie’s own Marc Elias and Tyler Hagenbuch, along with veteran election lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg of Jones Day, plans to use an algorithm to synthesize data on political candidates and provide information and suggestions on the candidates to potential donors.
While Crowdpac’s original request covered practically every relevant aspect of its planned operations, the discussion at yesterday’s open meeting focused primarily on whether the company’s proposed use of FEC contributor data was permissible. Specifically, Crowdpac sought to display the names, cities, and states of individual contributors identified from FEC reports alongside aggregated campaign finance data about candidates.
However, the Federal Election Campaign Act prohibits FEC data from being “sold or used by any person for the purpose of soliciting contributions.” One draft released by the FEC employed a strict reading of this provision that would have prohibited Crowdpac’s proposed activity. But the Commissioners unanimously decided that Crowdpac simply sought “to promote … the transparency of political information” – not use contributor data for solicitation purposes.
In addition to Crowdpac’s request, the Commission approved two other advisory opinions. One allowed Reed Marketing Consultants to develop and market an affinity card product for political committees that would allow cardholders to forward their rebates to committees of their choosing. The second opinion allowed Joan Farr, an Independent Senate candidate in Oklahoma, to purchase and distribute a book she authored. Last, the Commission made a small revision to a final audit report for the Nebraska Democratic Party.