FEC Attempts to Strong-Arm Anti-Hillary Group

Stop Hillary PAC ridicules federal regulators for claiming voters will confuse it with Clinton campaign

Protesters gather before a Hillary Clinton campaign event / AP

Stop Hillary PAC on Tuesday responded to federal regulators’ attempts to force the group to change its name with a simple declaration: "No."

The Federal Election Commission told the group, a super PAC that opposes Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, that it had to choose a different name in order to make clear that it is not affiliated with Clinton’s campaign.

Stop Hillary PAC said that the concern was laughable. It responded with a sternly worded and at times humorous letter declaring that the FEC’s interpretation of relevant regulations would "suppress citizens' First Amendment rights to engage in robust political speech."

Given the "hundreds of clowns who file to seek that office every 4 years," and the thousands more who seek other federal offices, political groups cannot be expected to avoid any uses of their names, Stop Hillary said.

It further suggested that if citizens confuse the anti-Clinton super PAC with the presidential candidate’s campaign committee, the latter should be the one forced to change its name, having registered with the FEC after Stop Hillary PAC did so.

The exchange began with a Monday letter from the FEC.

"Your committee's name includes the name of a candidate; however, your committee does not appear to be an authorized committee of that candidate," the FEC wrote.

It requested that Stop Hillary PAC either change its official designation to a candidate committee, or change its name "so that it does not include the candidate's name and/or provide further clarification regarding the nature of your committee."

Stop Hillary scoffed at the request, which it said "seeks to restrain this Committee's constitutional right to free speech and association as follows."

As a committee explicitly opposed to Hillary Clinton, the idea that it could be confused with Clinton’s campaign committee is ludicrous, it said.

"This Committee is unsure, considering the choice to include the verb ‘STOP’ in the Committee's name, followed by the clear object sought to be stopped, ‘Hillary’, what further clarification could possibly make clearer the Committee's lack of candidate authorization and, in fact, its open, aggressive, and blatantly obvious opposition to, Hillary Clinton," the group wrote.

"This Committee would encourage the FEC to vigorously investigate who it is that is so stupid that they would think a political committee named ‘Stop Hillary PAC’ is in any way an authorized committee of Hillary Clinton.

The FEC itself adjudicated a legal complaint filed by Stop Hillary alleging violations of federal campaign finance laws by Clinton’s de-facto campaign, Stop Hillary noted.

The date of Clinton’s eventual declaration of her candidacy is of particular import, Stop Hillary said, given that the committee registered with the FEC before Clinton’s presidential campaign committee was technically formed.

"As this Committee filed its Form 1 well before any known current federal candidate named Hillary registered with the Commission, we invite any such candidate to make any necessary name changes to alleviate whatever apparent confusion has befuddled the Commission," it wrote.

A spokeswoman for the FEC said that she could not comment on matters currently pending before the commission, but that in general a failure to comply with the relevant statutes could result in enforcement actions against a committee.

That mirrors language in the FEC’s letter to Stop Hillary, which also warned that it could initiate "audit action."