Untraceable attack money is flooding our elections and corrupting our democracy. We can fix it with a simple pledge.

Candidates know who's behind the money, and so should we.

Since the Citizens United decision, there has been a tremendous rise in outside money in American politics.

Untraceable spending breeds corruption that allows front groups, shell corporations, and even foreign governments to secretly buy influence over our elected officials. Candidates in both parties are benefiting from the record-breaking secret spending. It’s a bi-partisan problem that needs a non-partisan solution.

UNTRACEABLE SPENDING IS CORRUPTING OUR DEMOCRACY

NO NEW LEGISLATION. JUST A COMMON SENSE AGREEMENT.

We know how to get dark money out of an election — and it doesn’t take an act of Congress to do it.

During the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown agreed that if any outside group spent on their behalf that they would give to charity out of their own funds.

It worked. Outside spending was drastically reduced to merely 9% of total spending in contrast to upwards of 60% in other states.

CounterPAC’s mission this year is to get as many candidates as possible to agree to a similar pledge rejecting untraceable dark money.

Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much, but leaders — and voters — in both parties want an end to untraceable secret spending in elections.

CounterPAC’s Role

1

Promoter

CounterPAC will make candidates take a stand on the pledge using outreach ads and social media.

2

Moderator

CounterPAC will act as a monitor of untraceable spending and a moderator between the candidates.

3

Enforcer

CounterPAC will highlight any pledge violations through significant advertising and public outreach campaigns.

The Pledge

The Candidates reject the following expenditures by any entity unless the funding source of the expenditure is clearly disclosed and can be traced back to one of the following:

  • Individuals;
  • a well known corporation with revenue from trade or commerce of at least $50 million for each of the past five years; or
  • a nonprofit that has more than one million members, has been in existence for more than 10 years, has members in all 50 states and raises 15 percent or less of its funds from corporations.
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    • Rejected Undisclosed Expenditures. The Candidates reject the following expenditures by any entity:
      • independent expenditures, that is, any independent-expenditure television, radio, cable, satellite, or online advertising by a third party in support of or in opposition to a named, referenced (including by title), or otherwise identified Candidate;
      • electioneering communications, that is, any television, radio, cable, satellite, or online advertising by a third party that promotes, attacks, supports, or opposes a named, referenced (including by title), or otherwise identified Candidate; and
      • coordinated communications, that is, any paid advertisement that a Candidate or anyone acting on his or her behalf coordinates with a third party.
    • Proof of Qualification. Any entity making expenditures in a form enumerated above must provide proof, wherever it does not already exist in the public domain, that it meets the required qualifications. For any political committee making such expenditures, this includes provision of proof that all donors of $10,000 or more meet the required qualifications. Failure to provide such proof upon request will be considered a violation of the pledge.
    • Countering Rejected Expenditures. If any rejected expenditure is made, the Candidate that is advantaged by the rejected expenditure must, within three days of the expenditure, donate 50% of the cost of the rejected expenditure to a charity of the opposing Candidate’s choice.
    • Resolution of Disputes. If any dispute arises with regard to whether a rejected expenditure has been made, which Candidate has been advantaged by the rejected expenditure, the amount of the rejected expenditure, whether the rejected expenditure has been countered as described in this agreement, or any other question about the terms of this agreement, either Candidate may seek a determination from CounterPac, an independent, nonpartisan political organization dedicated to challenging and offsetting the effects of outside organizations on congressional campaigns. CounterPac’s determination will be binding on the Candidates.
    • Counterweight Advertisements. The Candidates acknowledge that if the advantaged Candidate fails to counter a rejected expenditure or for another legitimate reason, CounterPac may make an advertising buy in the same amount as the rejected expenditure either opposing the advantaged Candidate or in favor of the opposing Candidate. Any counterweight advertisement made by CounterPac is not considered a rejected expenditure.
    • Further Cooperation of the Candidates. The Candidates will work together to limit the influence of third-party advertisements in the campaign and to close any loopholes that may be discovered in this agreement during the course of the campaign.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who are you?
    We are a group of concerned citizens who believe that unlimited dark money is corrupting our political system. We have backgrounds varying from tech entrepreneurs to political advisors. See below for a complete list.
  • Why would any politician take the CounterPAC pledge?
    First and foremost, because most of them understand that getting secret money out of elections is good for America. But also, politicians want to run their own campaigns. Like anyone, they would prefer to tell their own story rather than have it told for them. But, like an arms race, they are unlikely to eliminate dark money unilaterally; they are much more willing to disarm if the other side disarms as well. Hence the bilateral nature of the pledge.
  • Why focus on untraceable “dark” money?
    We need to start with something almost everyone supports. From Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the left to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on the right, leaders on both sides of the aisle have called for an end to secret campaign spending. By starting with a common-sense agreement, we can make a real impact in races this year without waiting for action by Congress or anyone else.
  • What makes you think this will work?
    Because it already has. The Massachusetts Senate race in 2012 used a version of the pledge called “The People’s Pledge” that went even further than just requiring disclosure of donors and it worked. For details, see Common Cause’s paper: A Plea for the Pledge
  • Where will you be active during 2014?
    You can follow CounterPAC's activity, including any ads that we run, on our Campaigns page.
  • Who are your funders?
    CounterPAC is generously funded by individual citizens committed to restoring integrity to our elections. See below for a full list.

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Get more information about how money actually affects democracy in light of our complex political system.

Who we are

We are a group of concerned citizens who see a need for change in our political system, and aren’t willing to wait for Congress or the Supreme Court to fix the problem of unregulated anonymous money.

Our Team

Jim Greer, Co-Founder

Jim Greer is the founder and CEO of Kongregate, a web and mobile platform that distributes over 80,000 games. Kongregate reaches over 18 million monthly visitors, and was acquired by GameStop in 2010. He has worked in the game industry since 1991 and holds a Computer Science degree from Princeton.

Zack Booth Simpson, Co-Founder

Zack Booth Simpson is a Research Fellow at the University of Texas Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology. He has published papers in Nature, Cell, and other journals. He is also an interactive artist who has exhibited at dozens of museums, including Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and New York’s Hall of Science. He is self-educated.

Mark McKinnon, Campaign Guru

Mark McKinnon has solved complex strategic challenges for causes, companies and candidates, including President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Congressman Charlie Wilson and Bono. He has helped engineer five winning presidential primary and general elections. He is co-founder of No Labels, which seeks to promote a new politics of problem solving over point-scoring.

Lawrence Lessig, Commissioner

Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school's Center for Internet and Society, and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Lessig serves on the Board of Creative Commons, MAPLight, Brave New Film Foundation, The American Academy, Berlin, AXA Research Fund and iCommons.org, and is on the advisory board of the Sunlight Foundation. He is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, and has received numerous awards, including the Free Software Foundation's Freedom Award, Fastcase 50 Award and being named one of Scientific American's Top 50 Visionaries. Lessig holds a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale.

Richard Painter, Commissioner

Richard W. Painter is the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Minnesota. He received his B.A., summa cum laude, in history from Harvard University and his J.D. from Yale University. He clerked for Judge John T. Noonan Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and later practiced at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City and Finn Dixon & Herling in Stamford, Connecticut.

From 2005-2007, he was Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush in the White House Counsel's office, serving as the chief ethics lawyer for the President, White House employees and senior nominees to Senate-confirmed positions in the Executive Branch. He is a member of the American Law Institute and is an advisor for the new ALI Principles of Government Ethics. He has also been active in the Professional Responsibility Section of the American Bar Association.

Buddy Roemer, Commissioner

Buddy Roemer is the chairman of The Reform Project, a non-partisan organization fighting the unfair use of money in politics. Previously, he served as the 52nd Governor of Louisiana from 1988 to 1992, and as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1981 to 1988. He also founded two banks.

Trevor Potter, Legal Counsel

Trevor Potter is an attorney at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, D.C. and leads the firm's Political Law Practice. He is a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission and served as General Counsel to John McCain’s 2008 and 2000 presidential campaigns. He now represents Stephen Colbert and his SuperPAC and advises him on campaign finance issues on and off the air.

Matt Cutts, Founding Donor

Matt Cutts is head of Google’s Webspam team, and a major public face for explaining how search works to webmasters. He wrote the first version of SafeSearch, Google’s family friendly filter.

Kahlil Byrd, Political Advisor

Kahlil Byrd is a political entrepreneur. Currently, he serves as Chief Investment Officer for the Fund for the Republic. As former CEO of Americans Elect and president of StudentsFirst, Kahlil has extensive experience building and guiding complex national organizations, gathering resources to power innovative reform ideas, and operating in national politics.

Robin Beck, Strategy Director

Robin Beck is a veteran online organizer and campaign strategist. He is a former Campaign Director at MoveOn.org and previously ran the online organizing programs at Change.org and Rainforest Action Network.

Jay Costa, Campaign Director

Jay Costa has a deep background working for transparency and reform surrounding money in politics. He previously served as Program Director at MapLight, where he led the organization's web and data projects, and as a National Coordinator for Rootstrikers.

Julia Rhodes Davis, Strategic Partnerships Director

Julia Rhodes Davis leads strategic partnerships and development efforts for CounterPAC. She brings over a decade of experience in strategy, fundraising, and coalition building to the fight to reclaim our democracy.

William Winters, Campaign Strategist

William Winters has a played a key strategic role in a number of campaigns, including at Change.org, ColorOfChange.org, and Presente.org.

Our Funders

Jim Greer, Co-Founder

Jim Greer is the founder and CEO of Kongregate, a web and mobile platform that distributes over 80,000 games. Kongregate reaches over 18 million monthly visitors, and was acquired by GameStop in 2010. He has worked in the game industry since 1991 and holds a Computer Science degree from Princeton.

Matt Cutts, Founding Donor

Matt Cutts is head of Google’s Webspam team, and a major public face for explaining how search works to webmasters. He wrote the first version of SafeSearch, Google’s family friendly filter.

Roy Bahat, Donor

Roy Bahat is the head of Bloomberg Beta, a new venture fund that focuses on transforming the world of work. He is also a lecturer at U.C. Berkeley and chairman of OUYA.

Ethan Beard, Donor

Ethan Beard is an Entrepreneur In Residence at Greylock Partners. Previously he served as Director of the Facebook Developer Network, where he oversaw worldwide developer relations and marketing for Facebook Platform. He previously served as Director of Business Development at Facebook and led the team responsible for creating and managing strategic partnerships. Ethan joined Facebook from Google, where he served as Director of Social Media and Director of New Business Development.

Ron Carmel, Donor

Ron Carmel is the co-founder of 2D BOY and co-creator of World of Goo. He is the also a co-founder of Indie Fund, a project-based funding source for promising independent game developers.

Todd DiPaola, Donor

Todd Dipaola is a digital marketing entrepreneur. He has founded two successful companies and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal. Entrepreneur Magazine, and the New York Times among others. Todd has worked on curbing the influence of money on democracy for over a decade and serves on the boards of California Common Cause, Represent.Us, and the Goldman School of Public Policy.

Ted Wang, Donor

Ted Wang is a Silicon Valley lawyer who represents high profile startups and established technology companies such as Facebook, Path, Square, StumbleUpon, Sonos and Dropbox. He is a partner at Fenwick & West and someone who Bloomberg identified as "one of Fenwick's biggest draws."