Benjamin Burstein is a high school sophomore from Miami Beach, Florida. He turns 16 next week. And over the last week, when he had some free time, he started his own political action committee.
Burstein filed his PAC, Teens for Teens, with the Federal Election Commission last Friday. Its mission: "increasing political literacy and representation among students under the age of eighteen."
Burstein says he created Teens for Teens to encourage more teenagers to register to vote, even though Burstein himself won't be able to vote until 2017.
"This is my way of really participating in politics, because I myself can't vote," Burstein told National Journal. "I would like to really help everyone and try to get voting to be more of a priority."
Technically, FEC guidelines require PAC founders to be at least 18 years old, so Burstein enlisted his mother (an accountant) to file the financial statements in her name. All of this raises a question: Why start a PAC instead of a school club?
"A lot of the grant processes require you to have federal recognition," Burstein said. "By getting more money, there would be more accessibility toward politics for teens, and more opportunities for me to do more things with Teens for Teens."
Burstein may be the youngest person to start his own PAC, but he's hardly the first of his generation to do so. In 2012, then-21-year-old John Ramsey used $890,000 of his grandfather's inheritance as seed money for a super PAC supporting Ron Paul. In January, Lucas Agnew—a senior at Claremont McKenna College—started his own super PAC, Millennials for Jeb.
But Burstein insists he is nonpartisan and simply trying to get some of his fellow teens interested in politics. One way he thinks those goals could be accomplished would be lowering the voting age to 16 and allowing teens to register when they get their driver's licenses.
"In the status quo, there's no policy that would be able to change the voting age," Burstein said. "By lowering it to 16, it would start to give teenagers control of their own affairs."
Burstein said he got the idea of starting his own PAC through his involvement in speech and debate (for which he's ranked 31st in the country and 7th in Florida). He has tried to get friends and teammates to join Teens for Teens, so far to no avail.
"Right now, I'm really working by myself," he said. "I've tried getting more people to come on and do it. I guess that politics aren't as important to everyone as myself."
When reached by phone Monday, Burstein had just gotten out of classes for the day and had been catching up on the news of Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential announcement. After school lets out for the summer, Burstein says he wants to intern with a representative. But before he applies, he has a line to add to his résumé.
(Tip o' the hat to Stefan Becket for inspiring this story.)
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