Odd Florida group behind new Super PAC

A mysterious Florida group with a strange – and broad – mix of interests is getting attention in Washington for setting up what may be the first corporate Super PAC though a national group that watches money and politics says the group’s filing appears to have several problems.

A few campaign finance watchers, and the Washington Post, noticed earlier this month when the group appeared to become the first corporate Super PAC. Those are the new political committees – officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees” – that can raise unlimited corporate and union money to do advocacy that isn’t directly coordinated with candidates. The groups were made possible by a couple of recent court decisions.

The new Florida Super PAC was formed by something called Deep Sea Burial, which is affiliated with another group called American Phoenix. The groups’ president, Michael Benjamin, was quoted in the Washington Post last week saying that the PAC plans to put as much as $5 million into state and federal elections. The campaign finance watchdog group the Center for Responsive Politics notes in its Opensecrets.org blog today that there are several possible problems with the group’s filing, raising the possibility it may not be legally allowed to sponsor a Super PAC. But even more intriguing is the group’s apparent list of interests. Today, the American Phoenix website simply says it wants to give “power back to the people” and “end corporate rule.” And the website for Deep Sea Burial is about just that – “carbon neutral burial” at sea. But an earlier version of the site, according to Opensecrets, also said its aims were banning circumcision, eliminating red light cameras, banning absentee voting and to “classify the killing of Sikhs in Pakistan in 1947 as a genocide” and overturning the North American Free Trade Agreement. And in an earlier interview with the Sunlight Foundation, Benjamin said the group advocates for legalization of drugs and prostitution, declaring Islam as a hostile political party and requiring homeowners associations to be put to a vote every five years.

The News Service of Florida