WASHINGTON — Over the past week, former President Donald Trump has reportedly been floating the idea of forming a new political party called the "Patriot Party," according to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
Social media lit up on Monday with claims that the deed had been done, and photos of a Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing form for a "MAGA Patriot Party National Committee" spread quickly.
We're Verifying everything we know and don't know about this party, and what it takes to start a political party.
QUESTION: Is the 'MAGA Patriot Party' affiliated with the Trump Campaign?
- John Fortier, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute with a focus on Congress and elections.
- Paul S. Ryan, Vice President of Policy and Litigation at Common Cause and an expert in campaign finance and election law.
- Tammy Patrick, senior advisor of the elections program at Democracy Fund and local elections expert.
- Several Federal Election Commission filings
- James Davis, an organizer for the MAGA Patriot Party National Committee
What do we know so far about the 'MAGA Patriot Party' and how it started?
First — the FEC form is real. The "MAGA Patriot Party National Committee" filed a statement of organization with the FEC on the morning of January 25.
The Verify team got in touch via email with the person who claims to have filed for the party committee, James Davis. He says the party was set up to send a message of support to former President Donald Trump and that he expects to have candidates shortly.
"We are only organizing to show that we support him and we are all waiting for what his plan will be," Davis said. "Meanwhile, our group is not only focused on the re-election of the president, but we are a grassroots movement within every state that wants real representation and feels that the Republican party has not given us that."
"It started on social media," Davis told us while explaining the origins of the party.
"And what happened was a lot of real people, just regular ordinary people ended up talking about 'well, what are we going to do? How are we going to get Republicans to listen to us? And how are we going to get to a point where we can feel like our votes count again and we have someone that's going to represent us?' And so we decided to go ahead and try to start a new party."
Davis says he reached out to the Trump campaign but never heard back. He says the group is still in an organizational phase and is not taking donations at this time. But he said they're looking to start running candidates in federal and local races shortly.
The sole committee listed on the form as a joint fundraiser is the Donald J. Trump for President (DJTFP) organization — but late Monday, the campaign filed an official disavowal of the filing.
"DJTFP did not authorize the filing of this Form 1, has not entered into any joint fundraising agreement to fundraise through MAGA Patriot Party National Committee, and has no knowledge of MAGA Patriot Party National Committee's activities whatsoever. To be clear: DJTFP has no affiliation with MAGA Patriot Party National Committee, which is not authorized by Mr. Trump or DJTFP."
James Davis told us he was disappointed to hear that the former president disavowed his group.
So while we can Verify that the party committee is legit, the Trump campaign says it has nothing to do with them.
Have others tried to file as the 'Patriot Party' before?
A campaign source told the Verify team they have had to issue numerous disavowal notices for organizations who inaccurately connected themselves with the campaign.
We asked the FEC whether organizations like MAGA Patriot Party and the Patriot Party needed to prove they were affiliated with Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. A spokesperson said they couldn't speak to any specific situation or committee but pointed us to a general rule.
"When committees engage in joint fundraising, all participants must agree to and sign a joint fundraising agreement," they continued. That agreement determines how much of the proceeds are directed to each participating committee, and what's allocated where.
The Verify team also spoke with Paul S. Ryan, who actively watchdogs groups like this to make sure they're not doing anything fishy with political donations. He says the first thing he noticed is that the form is filled out incorrectly.
"There are some clear errors in this paperwork and the fact that whoever set this operation up chose the structure of a joint fundraising committee, but named only a single committee, the Trump Campaign Committee, as a participant makes no sense at all," he explained.
"This instance of the MAGA Patriot Party is an example of incorrectly filed paperwork," Ryan continued. "What is yet to be determined is whether there is some bad intent here to defraud potential donors, or whether it was just an inexperienced Trump supporter who's in over their head."
Our experts told us that lots of groups file this kind of paperwork with the FEC, but not all of them get off the ground.
"Thousands of individuals every year set up political committees with the Federal Election Commission," Paul S. Ryan explains. "Many of these never end up raising or spending any significant amount of money. It's an easy thing to do to file a piece of paperwork with the Federal Election Commission setting up a political committee."
What does it take to start a political party?
Our experts say it is much more difficult and much more complex to start a real, successful party than simply filing a form with the FEC. Even more, the rules for party recognition differ in every state.
In some states, you can be officially recognized as a party and gain ballot access even with just one member, says Tammy Patrick, an election expert for the Democracy Fund. In others, you need to meet a membership threshold.
"In Arizona, we literally had dozens of political parties that people would register to, but they only had maybe one or two people registered to that party. So it wasn't recognized by the government until you reach a certain threshold," she says. "Once you start accepting campaign donations or other types of monies and in-kind donations, that's when you really have to finalize and make sure you've got all your party paperwork in, both with the FEC as well as state and local governments."
Patrick says that the level of office you intend to campaign for determines where you file. If you're seeking a local office, you would file to be an officially recognized party in your county. If you intend to run for national office, for Congress or for president, you file paperwork with federal officials. In all of these cases, in the end, you are seeking official recognition.
John Fortier told us that in order to take this first step of applying, you don't necessarily need a membership or a platform.
"The first step of just applying to register as a party you can do without much in place," he says. "But to get the Federal Election Commission to issue an advisory opinion that says you really are a national party, you're going to have to show you have more going on."
Without that official recognition, your party won't get anywhere nationally.