Al Jazeera America

Super PAC fetishist strikes again

Florida man gives regulators headaches after creating hundreds of odd committees

A Florida man has, so far this month, created more than 350 political groups — including hundreds of federal super PACs that claim to represent interests ranging from racquetball to the petroleum industry.

But “Josh Larose,” usually known to exasperated election regulators as Josue Larose, is neither a seasoned campaign fundraiser nor a billionaire bestowing cash on his favored candidates. His motives are not exactly clear, because despite registering hundreds of super PACs and other political groups since 2010, none of Larose’s groups ever generate a dime.

“It’s hard to understand why he does this,” Larry Noble, general counsel for Campaign Legal Center and a former Federal Election Commission general counsel, said of Larose.

And if Larose has a reason, he isn’t saying: He hung up when the Center for Public Integrity called for comment.

Larose’s chronic super PAC creating has long dumbfounded federal and state election regulators alike. He registers super PACs, forms political parties and even runs for political office. But his efforts come to a halt once he files the required paperwork, although they create bureaucratic headaches for the federal and state commissions charged with regulating campaign finance.

The Florida Elections Commission in 2014 found Larose, who lives in Deerfield, Florida, in violation of 2,052 counts of election law. The charge: dishonestly filling out campaign finance reports.

While leading 331 political committees in Florida and running to be the Sunshine State’s governor in 2010, Larose falsely reported receiving millions of dollars from nonexistent donors, according to records from the Florida Elections Commission.

Among Larose’s other claims: Florida Division of Elections employees attempted to elicit a $10,000 bribe from him.

Larose owes more than $513,000 in fines for his election violations. The Florida Elections Commission declined comment.

Inactive super PACs like those of Larose draw ire from federal regulators, too.

The FEC has ratcheted up its enforcement of zombie super PACs — those that exist on paper but don’t engage in politics. The FEC has the power to “administratively terminate” such inactive groups, and in 2012 it shut down 61 groups run by Larose.

Beyond that, the FEC can’t do much to stop Larose. “We don’t have a lot of authority in this area,” FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel acknowledged.

Meanwhile, agency staffers must spend time and resources processing his paperwork, tracking his super PACs’ activities and warning him when he fails to comply with various federal requirements.

Super PACs among Larose’s newest batch bear names such as World Professional Judo LeagueAmerica’s Supermarkets Industry Roundtable and Romanian Chamber of Commerce of America.

In fact, Larose in December created 100 “chamber of commerce” super PACs, all claiming geographic locations in various foreign countries and U.S. states.

Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, anyone can form a super PAC with relative ease.

Farcical political committees have long existed. Among the newest class are Leveraged Pelican PACAmericans for Crushing It and Empire Strikes PAC.

Dozens of people have also formed fake presidential campaigns, often using ridiculous names or claiming to be those of cartoon or movie characters.

As it stands, anyone — including Larose — can form a super PAC, despite the headache the most inactive ones create for regulators.

“Any waste of resources is a problem,” Noble said. “But he does have a right to do this.”

This story is from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative media organization in Washington, D.C. Read more of its investigations on the influence of money in politics or follow it on Twitter.

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Campaign Finance, FEC

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