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Independent allies of candidates can’t spend money “in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of” a candidate, under federal rules.
But candidates and the independent super PACs that support them have increasingly found ways to work together without breaking laws barring outright coordination.
One common method is to signal strategies to each other using public means of communication, such as speeches, interviews, social media, news articles, news releases or a campaign website.
It’s bold, but legal: How campaigns and their super PAC backers work together
Still, the complaint argues that this particular instance crossed the line.
“This is different from what we’ve seen before, because the tweeted request is so obvious, including significant details about content, timing, location and duration of the ads that the Buttigieg campaign was seeking,” said Brendan Fischer, who directs the federal regulatory work of the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for greater restrictions on the role of money in politics.
The Buttigieg campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Joseph E. Sandler, an attorney for VoteVets, said in a statement that the group “has conducted all of its activities in full compliance with federal campaign finance laws and regulations.”
“Acting independently — without any discussion or consultation with the campaign, devising its own messages and selecting its own audiences — VoteVets created an advertisement, to be run in Nevada, supporting Mayor Buttigieg,” Sandler’s statement read.
Sandler added that Halle’s tweet was a public statement and “did not influence in any way VoteVets’ decision to run the advertisement, or the timing, content or targeting of the advertisement.” Nevada was the next state in the Democratic primary process and a natural place for the group to run its ads, he said.
It is highly unlikely that there will be any formal action on the complaint before the November election. The FEC typically takes more than two years to reach a conclusion on legal complaints.
And the FEC currently lacks a voting quorum, so the panel would not be able to take a formal vote until it had at least four commissioners.
“The FEC’s failure to enforce its own rules in the decades since Citizens United and the recent lack of quorum has encouraged super PACs and campaigns to work together. But this does cross the line,” Fischer said.
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