The World Series is now underway between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Absent from the Fall Classic due to their mediocre performance this year is the New York Mets.
But don’t tell that to 15-year-old Ben Aybar.
Ben is like many high school students. He enjoys his extracurricular activities, computers and, above all else, the New York Mets. But unlike other teenage Mets fans, Ben has a super PAC to prove his loyalty.
Ben recently completed the Federal Election Commission (FEC) paperwork to register the “Mets Are A Good Team Committee” super PAC. He is the chairman, custodian of records and one-time treasurer of the organization.
But why did Ben create a super PAC about the Mets?
According to Ben, his goal wasn’t to promote the (crazy) idea that the Mets are actually a good team. Instead, as Ben revealed in an interview with Sports Illustrated, he created the super PAC as a joke and to illustrate the problem he sees with money in politics. “Look how easy this is to do. If I could do it, anyone can,” Ben told SI.
Wait a minute. Isn’t that a good thing?
Super PACs are just groups where Americans pool their money and speak out about candidates they support or oppose. Americans speaking about a cause or candidate they believe in is what the First Amendment is all about.
The fact that the FEC made the forms simple enough for a high school student to figure out (although he later received help from a lawyer in his family) is a feature, not a bug. Unalienable rights guaranteed by the Constitution should be easy to exercise for anyone, not restricted by a maze of red tape.
Furthermore, despite the common perception that super PACs are some all-powerful force, they are nothing of the sort. Ben’s super PAC is simply a group that allows him to raise money to print out fliers, buy Facebook ads or speak in any other way about any topic he chooses — including the greatness of the Mets.
As demonstrated by Ben, these groups can be started around many different types of issues or causes. If you start a group with a message that resonates with your fellow Americans, many may join and support your cause by donating. Start a group with a message about a mediocre baseball team, and things may prove more difficult. The Mets Are A Good Team Committee has raised only $37.03.
This poor fundraising haul hasn’t left Ben discouraged.
Although his group started as “sort of a joke,” Ben quickly realized it was more serious than he intended. He is now looking to use his group to support candidates who will work against corruption and who lack the means to get their message heard. This is exactly the kind of speech that super PACs were created for.
Unfortunately, despite Ben’s experience, so far, he still appears to support restricting the creation of super PACs.
Regardless, Ben’s joke can teach us all about the value of free speech. Rather than viewing super PACs as a tool only for the powerful, these groups should be understood as a way to enhance the speech of all Americans. Perhaps Ben will even become the next big independent spender if others flock to his cause.
After all, the Mets are known to provide their fans with miracles.
Eric Peterson is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Institute for Free Speech.