Tech super PAC startups could tap billions

Center for Public Integrity

A for-profit university bankrolled by prominent tech firms and co-founded by futurist Ray Kurzweil is behind four separate super PACs formed this week, according to interviews and documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Randi Willis, an official at Singularity University, confirmed to the Center for Public Integrity that leaders at her institution will later this year begin determining how to best use these new political committees, which could tap into the wealth of tech industry titans.

"Instead of waiting for people in office to come to us, the idea is, 'Let's put people in office,'" said Willis, the executive programs director for the university who also serves as the super PACs' treasurer. "We have a number of millionaires and billionaires who come through here and who we believe would consider contributing."

Willis added that it's "a little bit too preliminary" to say what candidates the super PACs might support or who'd fund the super PACs, which may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against political candidates.

"For now, I'm holding the names — sort of squatting on them, for lack of a better term," Willis continued, noting that could take months to determine the super PACs' strategies. The groups are not likely to participate in the 2014 midterm elections.

Update, 10:19 p.m., May 20: Willis has filed paperwork with the FEC to terminate the four super PACs, according to a statement from Singularity University. Willis was not authorized to form the super PACs on the university's behalf, the university said. Update here.

While hardly a household name, Singularity University is supported by a slew of corporations that are.

Related: Singularity University disavows super PACs

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This story is part of Primary Source. Primary Source keeps you up-to-date on developments in the post-Citizens United world of money in politics. Click here to read more stories in this blog.

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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.

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