Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How Super PACs Dodge The Citizens United Coordination Ban

It's deplorably easy. And it's easy because FEC regulations are both sparse and weak. Here's Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon:


When the Supreme Court overruled almost a century of campaign finance laws in its 2010 Citizens United decision and opened the floodgates to outside money, it made two promises to keep things in check: It expected groups to disclose their donors and activists, and it sought to prevent groups from coordinating with candidates. Both restrictions have proven to be farces.

“The statu[t]e and the Supreme Court have been very strong on preventing coordination. But the FEC regulations have basically gutted the laws and given us very weak laws to prevent coordination between outside spenders and candidates,” veteran campaign finance watchdog Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 told Salon. This, “despite the fact that the Court’s entire decision in Citizens United is based on the notion that the expenditures are going to be entirely independent from the campaign,” he added.

Indeed, as Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation told Salon, “the FEC has a very narrow definition of what coordination actually is.” As long as a campaign and an outside group don’t directly communicate, and their use of a “common vendor” like Black Rock doesn’t meet several specific criteria, they’re fine. “It kind of boggles the mind, but that’s what the FEC has defined and there’s nothing illegal about it,” Allison explained.

Seitz-Wald gives examples before and after this passage. In a North Dakota Senate race, for example, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS/American Crossroads super PAC is de facto coordinated with the Republican candidate's campaign through an intermediary company, the Black Rock Group, which has corporate officers in common with the Republican candidate's campaign. No explicit coordination is needed, because the same person sits in meetings of the campaign and Crossroads. And this is NOT illegal, despite all the reassurances the Republican-dominated Supreme Court gave us in the Citizens United decision.

Our democracy has been bought, sold, paid for and delivered. I can imagine what Thomas Jefferson would say.

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