Get ready to meet the next generation of conservative political action committees.
Super PACs like Club for Growth Action and Senate Conservatives Action might be the grown-ups dominating the headlines today, giving the GOP establishment a headache and driving Republican Party squabbles. But now, a libertarian youth group is hoping to get in the midterm election game, attract a new generation of donors and contribute to the cause.
Young Americans for Liberty’s political action committee – Liberty Action Fund – bills itself as a youth-driven, grass-roots machine ready to harness enthusiasm for former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and leverage it into support for constitutionally focused and libertarian-minded congressional candidates. The PAC is an offshoot of Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian youth organization with 500 chapters and more than 125,000 participants, according to the YAL website.
The PAC, which claims to be the “voice of a new generation of political donors and activists,” has lofty ambitions. But according to campaign finance reports, they’ve got a long way to go before they can catch up to the big boy super PACs. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Liberty Action Fund has raised just more than $16,000 this election cycle. That's a drop in the bucket compared to groups like Club for Growth, which spent more than $17 million on campaigns in 2012.
“We are just getting started,” says Jeff Frazee, Young Americans for Liberty’s executive director. “Our hope is to raise between $10,000 and $50,000 per candidate.”
While the group has many donors who give less than $200 in contributions, more than half of the money the group has raised – $10,000 this election cycle – has come from one couple, Cyan and Scott Banister. The Banisters are entrepreneurs and “angel donors” known for their ties to companies like PayPal and IronPort Systems, the latter of which Scott Banister co-founded and then sold to Cisco Systems for $830 million in 2007.
In recent years, the Banisters also have become synonymous with Zivity, an adult photography and networking site they co-founded. The site is “a community of models, photographers and their fans,” the website reads. “Whether it’s erotic, artistic, fantasy, or documentary, fans can show their support by voting on sets, which gives money back to those artists.”
When asked about Liberty Action Fund’s major investors, Frazee confirmed Scott Banister was among them. But he says he is “not very familiar” with Zivity.
So far, Liberty Action Fund has endorsed six candidates this cycle, including sitting Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Mississippi, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., in a primary.
And while the group might not have the financial clout to flood the airwaves, candidates are still jumping at the opportunity for endorsements: On Friday, business owner Bryan Smith – who is challenging eight-term Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, touted his new endorsement from the group.
“I am thankful to receive the endorsement from the Young Americans for Liberty Action Fund PAC. It is a group that is dedicated to fighting to protect our freedoms and liberties from an overreaching federal government,” Smith said in a release.
This is the second election in which Liberty Action Fund has participated. In 2012, the group spent $79,000 supporting candidates like Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Also in 2012, the Banisters donated another $5,000 each, but a majority of the fundraising came from donors who gave less than $200 apiece.