Pro-Clinton super PAC says they can directly coordinate with campaign as long as no money’s involved

Correct the Record, the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC that made news earlier this week for not-so-subtly linking Bernie Sanders to Jeremy Corbyn and Hugo Chavez, is claiming that they can directly coordinate efforts with Clinton’s campaign under certain circumstances.

From the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton, via Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Clinton, via Wikimedia Commons

Correct the Record believes it can avoid the coordination ban by relying on a 2006 Federal Election Commission regulation that declared that content posted online for free, such as blogs, is off limits from regulation. The “Internet exemption” said that such free postings do not constitute campaign expenditures, allowing independent groups to consult with candidates about the content they post on their sites. By adopting the measure, the FEC limited its online jurisdiction to regulating paid political ads.

The rules “totally exempt individuals who engage in political activity on the Internet from the restrictions of the campaign finance laws. The exemption for individual Internet activity in the final rules is categorical and unqualified,” then-FEC Chairman Michael E. Toner said at the time,according to a 2006 Washington Post story. The regulation “protects Internet activities by individuals in all forms, including e-mailing, linking, blogging, or hosting a Web site,” said Toner, now a prominent Republican campaign finance attorney.

By Correct the Record’s reasoning, Clinton’s campaign can weigh in on the articles and videos they produce in their efforts to support her — otherwise known as directing strategy — as long as those articles and videos don’t make their way into paid advertising slots. While the group is registered as a super PAC, which allows it to raise unlimited sums of money, it does not intend to spend any of that money on paid media, thereby allowing it to sidestep the coordination ban.

Notably, in order to make that last statement true, Correct the Record had to separate from their parent super PAC, American Bridge — the separation accounts both for why Correct the Record is registered as a super PAC in the first place, and why it now doesn’t need the kind of money that you’re normally looking to raise when registering a super PAC.

It remains to be seen if this maneuver does in fact follow the letter of the law. Mark Elias, the Democratic lawyer representing Clinton in her lawsuits challenging voting rights restrictions in a number of states, is still waiting to hear back from the FEC. However, as the Post notes, FEC regulations limit the kind of coordination in Internet activity to “uncompensated individuals,” and CtR’s staff is paid.

Either way, this kind of coordination certainly violates the law’s spirit, as it effectively allows CtR to be a part of Clinton’s campaign while calling themselves something else. If they didn’t allow every Clinton attack to be reported as coming from an organization other than the Clinton campaign, there’d be no reason left not to simply hire all of their staff to form an in-house rapid-response and opposition research team. After all, it’s not like the super PAC is going to need a ton of money.

It took campaigns a couple of cycles to figure out how to use Citizens United to completely erase the line between contribution-limited campaigns and contribution-unlimited super PACs, but they’re getting close. As Matt Ford wrote in the Atlantic earlier today, the line is already so blurry that people who know better have stopped noticing them. As Ford points out, when Jake Tapper asked Jeb Bush about his fundraising at Wednesday night’s debate, he cited the combined total of Bush’s campaign and all of his super PACs — over $100 million — because for all intents and purposes that’s how much money Bush has raised. The $11.4 million subset of that figure residing in his official campaign committee’s account isn’t worth distinguishing:

Tapper is an experienced political reporter who knows the technical difference between a campaign and a super PAC. Bush obviously knows his own campaign doesn’t have $100 million in donations. And yet the distinction between independent expenditures and direct campaign donations didn’t matter during a nationally televised presidential debate. If the candidates, the press, and the public don’t see a difference, why should the Supreme Court?

To be clear, I’m sympathetic to the argument coming from the Clinton camp that in the Citizens United era it’s difficult to fault a candidate for playing by the rules of the game as they’re written. You can be all in favor of any number of campaign finance reforms — from restoring meaningful contribution limits all the way down to publicly-financed elections — but Republicans are exploiting the hell out of these nonexistent restrictions, and money still matters when it comes to winning. I get that.

But honestly, come on. The rules of the game are busted. And when you start parsing which kinds of coordination really count as coordination, you come off as being more than okay with that fact. If Correct the Record wants to take direction from Hillary Clinton’s staff when going about correcting the record, they should be a part of her campaign. If they think they can correct the record without her help, they’re more than welcome go to their separate way and do so.

And if you have to find loopholes in FEC regulations in order to win — in other words, if your strategy works — what makes you think you’ll be taken seriously when you say you want to close those same loopholes?


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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35 Responses to “Pro-Clinton super PAC says they can directly coordinate with campaign as long as no money’s involved”

  1. Masrry Thomas says:

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  2. ComradeRutherford says:

    Hillary, leading the charge for corruption. The Republicans can’t do it all by themselves…

  3. ComradeRutherford says:

    I still have my parent’s ‘Spiro T. Agnew: A Great American” t-shirt that they bought out of hte back page of a comic book – not because they were Agnew lovers, but because they thought the irony was so delicious!

  4. ComradeRutherford says:

    Oh, is *that* what the acronym JEB! stands for…

  5. Ewa Saunders says:

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  6. Naja pallida says:

    Let’s consider the real issue here, and it has nothing to do with Hillary’s political aspirations. The FEC and IRS don’t have the funding nor manpower to even begin to do adequate investigations into the activities of the countless PACs and lobbying groups that have popped up since Citizen’s United. They can’t pick and choose which ones to investigate without completely abdicating their purported objectivity. On top of that, so many holes have been shot through the already ridiculously vague rules that any enforcement would be a futile effort anyway. With courts heavily stacked in favor of moneyed interests, any challenge would likely result in nothing but a legal ruling which would only serve to erode their situation even further. They’re floating in the same boat as the SEC, with only a veneer of marginal control over their mandate, with money overtly manipulating the strings at every turn.

  7. FLL says:

    If elections don’t change anything (period, end of story), then why is Bill commenting on a thread about Hillary’s campaign for president? Something doesn’t add up.

  8. Silver_Witch says:

    Cheaters gotta cheat I guess. One more reason not to vote HRC.

  9. Bill_Perdue says:

    That’s not the point. The question is what makes them vote and that is mass action, not what party of gangsters they belong to.

    The system will not allow change except when mass pressure compels it. Expecting change from a system that will not allow it is unrealistic,

    You’re too distant from the upsurge among low wage workers and immigrant workers to be able to judge what will or will not happen. There were plenty of people who said that Massachusetts farmers could never fight and defeat the worlds largest and best trained army and navy. And that slavery could never be abolished. They were wrong too.

  10. Houndentenor says:

    Only one conservative justice on the Supreme court voted for marriage equality. there is no reason to think that whatever Scalia clone McCain would have appointed wouldn’t have done the same.

    As for the mass movement, I wish you well. I really do, but the level of change you keep dreaming of is not coming. You can also work within the system in the meantime. You are as delusional as the libertarians.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    Wrong.

    On all the big questions they have the same voice. They’re pro war, they have racist border polices, they oppose passing anti-discrimination bill (that have a chance of being enacted), they appoint pro-boss pro-.-01% judges, they refuse to federally deal with killer cops, they support TPP, fracking, offshore drilling and other environment busters and they’re arms and aid to every right wing government on earth, from zionist thugs to the Saudis to the rabidly anti-gay governments of Ugandan, Zimbabwe and etc.

    The Supremes moved on marriage because we forced them to, not because Obama appointed a couples of right wingers to the courts. That’s why Republican dominated courts in Massachusetts and California ruled for us, not because they liked us, but because we made, organized int mass movements for change, them do it.

    Elections change nothing. Court appointments change nothing. Mass movements change things.

  12. Houndentenor says:

    Bullshit. You can fairly argue that not enough things are different between a Republican and a Democratic administration, but Presidents appoint Federal judges and Supreme Court justices. Had McCain one, Obergefell would have been a ruling against gay marriage. That is a significant difference to me.

  13. Indigo says:

    Rodrigo was shrewd enough to recognize that the indigenous peoples of the New World (Nova India in those days) were in fact human beings. I rather like Lucrezia, she knew how to take her place and hold it. But yes, Cesare’s the cute one.

  14. nicho says:

    As long as it’s Cesare — at least before that syphilis thing. Rodrigo not so much.

  15. Bill_Perdue says:

    All this back and forth between Democrat rightists and Republican rightist is silly because it’s proven fact that elections don’t change anything. Period, end of story.

    “A new scientific study from Princeton researcher Martin Gilens and Northwestern researcher Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.

    Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often. It’s beyond alarming.

    As Gilens and Page write, ‘the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.’ In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.” http://mic.com/articles/87719/princeton-concludes-what-kind-of-government-america-really-has-and-it-s-not-a-democracy

  16. hidflect says:

    Because Hillary has bought off every two-bit Black community leader with promises of payola.

  17. hidflect says:

    As an unpaid, barking Hillary shill, Bob Cesca must be pleased.

  18. Sharon Patterson says:

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  19. Houndentenor says:

    So a SUPERPAC can claim they are doing something that doesn’t involve money?

    That’s laughable.

    We need serious campaign reform. The candidates don’t even feel to pretend they aren’t corrupt any more.

  20. Max_1 says:

    J ust
    E lect
    B ernie

  21. Skycat says:

    It’s amazing that Bernie isn’t getting as much credit as Hillary in the Black community, especially when he was the only white guy to show up in a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus investigating voter suppression in Florida. Hillary, by the way, was a no-show.

    http://bit.ly/1F8zOLG

  22. Indigo says:

    Well, when you put it that way . . . it become suddenly delicious! And yes, I’m fine with having a Borgia in the White House.

  23. nicho says:

    Really? I find that each episode of Hill&Bill Inc. skirting the rules is fascinating. It’s like reading about the Borgias.

  24. Indigo says:

    Honestly, this topic is as dull as or duller than a Republican debate.

  25. 2karmanot says:

    Sneaky Clinton’s” Hegel 101
    1.) Big Dawg: “Depends on what the definition of ‘Is’ is.
    2.) Pilliory: ” The Internets is free, so Super PAC can play.

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  27. Bill_Perdue says:

    You mean when HRH HRC played the race card against Obama every chance she got.

    “Hillary Clinton’s Campaign IEDs (Insinuations, Exaggerations and Distortions) – The Clintons have built their entire political lives on the premise that if they can’t win pretty, they’ll settle for winning ugly. … “Is Obama a Muslim.” Hillary was asked on 60-Minutes. “No. Not as far as I know,” she replied” http://www.alternet.org/story/79869/hillary_clinton's_campaign_ieds_(insinuations,_exaggerations_and_distortions)

    “Hillary Struggles Against Sexism But Regularly Plays Race Card – In the face of raw, media-driven misogyny, Clinton resorts to playing the race card and loses some women’s support in the process. “Yet what is most troubling is that the Clinton campaign has used her rival’s race against him. In the name of demonstrating her superior “electability,” she and her surrogates have invoked the racist and sexist playbook of the right… seeking to define Obama as too black, too foreign, too different to be President… the Clinton campaign’s use of this strategy has many non-white and non-mainstream feminists crying foul. … the statement was widely read as chalking up Obama’s win to his blackness alone and thus attempting to marginalize him as a doomed minority candidate with limited appeal. Obama was now “the black candidate,” in the words of one Clinton strategist quoted by the AP.” http://www.thenation.com/article/race-bottom-0

    The racist theme begun by Bill Clinton in South Carolina was doubled down in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, this time by Hillary Clinton. USA Today 05 08 2008 “Clinton: Obama Not Winning Over “Hard-Working Americans, White Americans” “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/08/clinton-obama-not-winning_n_100763.html

  28. Don Chandler says:

    Ohhhh nicho, you are a treacherous boy. I guess they are already using this glasshouse argument against hillary. Took me a bit to find it. I didn’t remember. But you didn’t forget ;) It’s okay though, anything is fair against someone using the system. Bernie isn’t using it. That is why it’s egregious. Against the republicans, shoot first, ask questions later. Probably the same thing applied to Obama in 2008. They were both on equal footing. They would both end up with huge amounts of money to throw at each other.

    2007 december 31:
    Hillary Clinton ‡107,056,5860118,301,65977,804,197106,000,000Barack Obama102,092,8190103,802,53784,497,44585,176,289

  29. nicho says:

    Remember how she and her surrogates slimed Obama in 2008.

  30. Max_1 says:

    J ust
    E lect
    B ernie

  31. Max_1 says:

    Remember: Sanders is against Citizens United. Hillary embraces it.

  32. Max_1 says:

    One envelope filled with cash brought Spiro Agnew down…
    … Nostalgia.

  33. Don Chandler says:

    Using it on Bernie is lowball.

  34. nicho says:

    If the Clintons can’t win in a fair fight, they’ll go dirty and ugly. That’s always been their MO.

  35. Knottwhole says:

    Who needs a PAC when you’re destined to be president? But hey, it’s good to be queen.

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