FEC Approves Request to Alert on Political Refunds

Photograph by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

New York City mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner in Harlem on September 10, 2013 in New York City.

It may be too late for Anthony Weiner supporters, but the Federal Election Commission is making it easier for donors to hold political candidates accountable.

The FEC ruled by a 5-1 vote last week that political donors’ data can now be used to encourage donors to ask for refunds. Donors to federal campaigns over $200 must disclose their name, address, employer and occupation to the FEC. The commission prohibits using this public data for commercial purposes or soliciting donors.

Political Refund, an organization pending non-profit approval from the Internal Revenue Service, wants to make it easier for donors to have their contributions refunded. It would use data obtained from the FEC filings to send mailers and emails to the donors to encourage them to ask for the money back from the candidate if the candidate changes positions or does something scandalous.

PoliticalRefund.org would then display the number of people who have asked for a refund back from the candidate and the aggregate dollar amount. The impact could force politicians to adhere more closely to their donors’ wishes.

Of course, nothing in the Federal Election Law obligates a candidate to refund donors’ money. But a flood of emails from irate donors may cause candidates to think twice before changing their tune.

Political Refund was represented by DB Capitol Strategies, and its request was signed by Paul Kamenar of the free-speech advocacy group Coolidge Regan Foundation.

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