Confronting the ‘Scam’ PAC Challenge in High-Stakes Elections

What are scam PACs?

Scam PACs are opaque political organizations that deceive potential donors into believing their contributions will be used to fund vital Democratic campaign efforts — when really, only a fraction of the money is put to that use. They often use bombastic, fear-inducing language and other exploitative tactics to make potential donors, often elderly people, believe great harm will come to our nation unless they immediately send money. Often they will invoke the name of trusted, well-known people in the Democratic ecosystem — e.g. using a sender name like “Barack Obama alert” or “Rachel Maddow says…” — that the organization has no actual ties to.

Why is this a problem?

In addition to the obvious moral and ethical shortcomings, scam PACs siphon money away from the very causes they claim to be supporting. If a potential donor gives $25 to a scam PAC claiming to be on the front lines of defending Democrats’ Senate majority, that’s $25 they’re not giving to an actual Democratic Senate campaign. When you send money directly to a campaign, you can be pretty confident that the campaign is going to use all of it to try to elect their candidate, scam PACs will often use as little as 10% of their funding on actually helping out the campaigns they claim to support. And because the operatives in charge of scam PACs hide behind opaque branding like “STOP Republicans,” their anonymity allows them to evade accountability.

Broad Impact Across Political Spectrum

The deceptive practices of scam PACs have a cascading effect on the political landscape, starting from the presidential race to gubernatorial contests, Senate elections, congressional battles, and state legislatures, potentially draining crucial resources from pivotal races. This could significantly affect the ability of parties, especially the Democrats, to make gains across various levels of government, undermining efforts to secure key positions across the US. Also, because scam PACs tend to churn out a high volume of extremely spammy content, the exhaustion they create in donors makes them less likely to engage in the emails and text messages sent out by legitimate candidates and political organizations.

Adverse Effects on Non-Profits and Essential Organizations

Beyond the political arena, scam PACs also pose a threat to non-profits and organizations that are in dire need of resources for social, environmental, and humanitarian causes. The diversion of funds meant for impactful work towards these deceptive operations robs these organizations of the means to effect positive change, further exacerbating the challenges they face in a world already rife with inequalities and crises.

A Concerning Trend in Digital Firms

The involvement of some digital firms in these unethical practices, using scam PACs as a revenue stream while working on important races, is deeply troubling. This approach not only undermines the political process but also betrays the trust of donors and the public, highlighting the need for integrity and ethical conduct in digital political engagement.

Our Stance

At Ascend Digital Strategies, we stand firmly against the practices of scam PACs and the unethical involvement of digital firms in such schemes. Our commitment to ethical engagement, transparency, and the responsible use of resources is unwavering. We are dedicated to ensuring that our efforts, and those of our partners, are directed towards authentic and impactful political and social campaigns.