Today’s Must-Read: BuzzFeed on Dan Backer’s “Scam PACs” and the Hyperpartisan Websites Touting Them

Great investigation by Craig Silverman and Tarini Parti:

Those three groups — Great America PAC, Great America Alliance and Stop Hillary PAC— have been cited or promoted in some way in more than 110 articles on AAN dating back to 2015. Of those, just 11 contained a label noting to readers that the content was sponsored. (Click here to view a spreadsheet listing AAN articles that cite these and other related PACs or organizations.)

Though it’s not disclosed to readers, the PACs and AAN share a key person in common: a Washington-area lawyer named Dan Backer who is an outspoken opponent of campaign finance rules that limit money in politics.

Backer is notorious in Washington for filing paperwork on behalf of a slew of PACs that popped up at the height of the Tea Party movement. Some of those grassroots conservative groups have come under fire for spending little of what they raise on political activity, causing some Republicans to label them “scam PACs.”

Backer is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in creating and funding hybrid PACs, which merged traditional PACs with super PACs that can raise and spend unlimited money.

And now it seems he’s pioneered a model that utilizes the popularity of hyperpartisan news to drive donations, petition sign ups, and general publicity for his PACs — largely without ever telling the reader that the website and PAC all trace back to the same person.


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