SILLY BUT NOT STUPID
Teen Got Feds to OK His ‘Blaze It for Jill Stein’ PAC
It seemed like a joke. Then it became a pretty remarkable illustration of how easy it is to influence the political system.
With little fanfare, federal regulators took steps two weeks ago to kill a super PAC supporting former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
The Federal Election Commission’s letter of “administrative termination”—the formal process by which it shuts down a group’s operations—received no media attention whatsoever.
That’s because the super PAC was a joke. Perhaps the name gave it away.
“Blaze It for Delegate Jill Stein” didn’t spend a single cent during the 2016 election. If that wasn’t proof of its less-than-serious intentions, consider its origins.
On September 30, 2016, Charlie Baker of South Orange, New Jersey, took out a piece of lined paper, with hole punches in it, and wrote a handwritten application to form the committee. He was 14-years-old, in the middle of an 8th grade social studies in which the teacher had divided students into camps representing various presidential candidates. His was the Jill Stein camp, an inglorious designation because, as he put it, “I did not support her candidacy at all.”
But school is school and sometimes, for the sake of the grade, you gotta do things that aren’t all too gratifying. One day, the teacher encouraged students to be creative in their advocacy and Baker, after giving it some thought, decided that a super PAC—which could raise and spend unlimited money on behalf of a candidate so long as they don’t directly coordinate with the campaign—would do.
The hurdles proved shockingly easy to clear. He went online and found an actual standardized application letter to get such a group started. He then wrote the FEC, eschewing a computer because, as he recalled, “I was at school and couldn’t actually print it out.”
In his letter, Baker pledged to not use any funds “to make contributions whether direct, in-kind, or via coordinated communications to federal candidates and committees.” He listed himself as both the custodian of records and the treasurer of the super PAC. But, for a flourish, he marked down his title as “Supreme Trap Lord.” His friend, Alex Klint, was listed as the “designated agent” with the title of “Elf Lord.”
In less than a week, their super PAC was approved.
“Part of the idea to creating these insane titles is to see how far we can go and still be accepted as a super PAC,” Baker said. “The idea was, it is ridiculously easy to make a super PAC. And it was ridiculously easy. In fact, it is kind of insane how easy it is because it provides such an easy vehicle for be corrupt in the system.”
The super PAC made absolutely zero efforts to help elect Stein, saving a perfunctory attempt at fundraising during which Baker went around with a glass jar and asked classmates for loose change. “No one donated to it,” he said.
Baker followed the election but couldn’t vote, being 14 and all. He said that if he could he would have “begrudgingly” backed Hillary Clinton.
On December 20, 2016, the FEC wrote Baker, alerting him that his “committee failed to designate a campaign depository.” In other words, it wasn’t revealing what political activities it was spending money on, which made sense because it wasn’t spending any money at all. Baker ignored the email. The FEC followed up on December 28 and then February 16, 2018.
Having received no responses to any of those communiques, the FEC wrote Baker again on April 6, this time with a more dire tone. “[T]he Commission intends to administratively terminate your committee,” the letter read. “As such, your committee is no longer obligated to file reports. However, any receipt or disbursement of funds by the committee for the purpose of influencing a Federal election or supporting a federal candidate will void the administrative termination.”
By that point, however, Baker had checked out of the super PAC game entirely. He'd gotten a 94 in the class and was unaware that “Blaze It for Delegate Jill Stein” was in danger of being killed off. Frankly, he could not have cared less.
“We didn’t do anything with it,” he conceded. “But the craziest thing is we could of. The FEC had absolutely no problem approving this super PAC that we wrote out on lined pieces of paper and that was formed by a bunch of 14-year-olds. There is a problem here.”