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Fighting Back Against Super PACs

February 12, 2012

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., says that super PACs could influence Congressional races in the same way they have the presidential race—and he may have a way for candidates to fight back.

“If you look at the potential for super PACs to influence Congressional races,” he said on MSNBC’s Up, “it’s going to be torrential, basically. So the question becomes what do you do as a rank-and-file member of Congress to prepare yourself to kind of push back if a super PAC comes at you.”

Sarbanes said the nightmare scenario is a super PACs entering a district with large television buy late in the race, forcing a candidate to raise money at a time when donors are tapped out. The answer, he said, is for candidates to use small-dollar fundraising drives that raise money from large numbers of supporters.

 

“You need to build a grass-roots donor network so you can tap into that and activate it in the final stages,” he said.

Though he holds a relatively safe Democratic district, Sarbanes is working to do that—and in a novel way. Using a bill called the Fair Elections Now Act as a model, he first went to traditional donors and asked them to help his establish a campaign fund. That fund could then be only be used after he established a large number of small-dollar, grass-roots donors.  

“I started thinking, why not take that model and demonstrate it in my own campaign,” he said, adding that it “gives me the opportunity to experiment with something new and try something different.”

CORRECTION: In the original version of this story, a word was dropped from a quote of Rep. John Sarbanes, speaking on MSNBC's Up on Sunday. The correct quotation is: “I started thinking, why not take that model and demonstrate it in my own campaign.”

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