Anyone Can Make a Super PAC: So Who Is the 'Real-Life Stephen Colbert'?
What do the NBA Sport Players Super PAC, the George W. Bush for a Better America Super PAC, the United States Billionaires Super PAC and the Sears Department Store Customers Super PAC have in common, aside from being super PACS?
They're all fake, and they're all run by the same guy.
Well, technically, they're not fake. All these super PACs are real, but they have no money. They don't have anything, really, except a name and a few Federal Election Commission documents filed by Josue Larose, an enigmatic self-proclaimed billionaire who has waged a few unsuccessful write-in bids for office in Florida.
Larose wouldn't be nationally noteworthy were it not for the "Citizens United" Supreme Court ruling that brought about the creation of super PACs, the technically independent groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose candidates. Since the 2010 ruling, Larose has formed dozens of super PACs - they cost nothing to create - changing their names every now and then to keep things interesting.
His goals are unclear. Florida's Department of State had brief contact with Larose when he created about 40 political parties in the state, causing Florida to make a law barring a person from being in charge of more than one super PAC at a time. But trying for clarity from Larose is like chasing a ghost - seemingly limitless phone numbers listed under his name go nowhere, and Larose didn't return a message sent to the email address he'd listed on his super PAC filings.
Whatever Larose's aims, he has had the effect of mocking the super PAC system - a "real-life Stephen Colbert" as Robert Maguire, a PAC researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, put it. Except Larose has been gaming the system for longer.
Larose has created hundreds of regular PACs in Florida, and he converted some of his federal PACs to super PACs - all he had to do was to fill out a different form to make the change - making him now the creator of five dozen super PACs that have been registered so far in the 2012 election cycle.
"Nobody really knows what he's doing," Maguire said. "Nobody knows where any of his money comes from."
In a super rare interview in 2009, Larose told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he was creating the scores of PACs "to give everybody a voice."
Since that interview, Larose has muted his own voice even as he left a small imprint on the state and national political scene.
Chris Cate, a spokesman for Florida's Department of State, said officials spoke with Larose on the phone because he "wasn't understanding or complying with campaign finance contribution and expenditure requirements." Larose never told them what his specific goals were, Cate said.
"We serve everyone equally, no matter their intentions or motivations," Cate said in a statement. "Mr. Larose was treated like anyone else who failed to file reports and documents timely."
In May 2010, Larose claimed he was the head of the American Federal Lobbying Firm, an organization that doesn't exist but still manages to have 87 clients, all of which are shell groups with no money either.
Many of Larose's state and federal PACs have benign names that cover nearly every issue - such as the Marriott Hotel Customers Super PAC and the USAID Employees Super PAC - but some are much more obscure, for example, the Billionaire Josue Larose's Dating Women Committee.
He also might have delusions of grandeur. The bylaws of one of the political parties he created, the American Bourgeoisie Political Party, mandate that the chairman, i.e., Larose, have bodyguards with him at all times and that the party buys him a limousine.