Hillary Clinton’s advisers worried the campaign was skirting dangerously close to breaking laws against open coordination with a super PAC controlled by top Clinton ally David Brock.
But in the end, they were swayed by the big and unlimited bundles of cash raised by Brock, a liberal activist.
“This does seem shady … (S)kirting if not violating law doesn’t help her IMHO.”
Brock, the founder of Media Matters for America, is a rabid Clinton supporter and creator of Correct the Record, a super PAC and “rapid response” outfit that works to support Clinton’s presidential bid.
Yet its coordination with Clinton drew concern that joint efforts were “shady,” according to emails posted by WikiLeaks on Monday. The May 2015 emails were exchanged between Hillary supporter Neera Tanden and John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chair.
WikiLeaks has released thousand of hacked emails from Podesta’s Gmail account since Oct. 7.
On May 13, 2015, Clinton's supporters discussed a story from The Washington Post on how Brock's political action committee would aid the Clinton campaign. The Post story raised issues of possibly illegal coordination.
"Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton rapid-response operation, announced it was splitting off from its parent American Bridge and will work in coordination with the Clinton campaign as a stand-alone super PAC," The Post reported on May 12, 2015. "That befuddled many campaign finance experts, who noted that super PACs, by definition, are political committees that solely do independent expenditures, which cannot be coordinated with a candidate or political party. Several said the relationship between the campaign and the super PAC would test the legal limits."
"But 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 Post noted.
The loophole was still an odd tack for the Clinton machine, whose candidate favors overturning Supreme Court decisions allowing looser and freer flow of speech and money into campaigns.
Correct the Record has so far raised $9.4 million and spent $8.1 million, according to OpenSecrets.org. Its major donors include Christopher Albrecht, the CEO of Starz Inc.; millionaire Barbara Fish Lee of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Clinton campaign itself, which gave $275,000 to Correct the Record less than one month after The Post story.
Yet the coordination raised red flags within the Clinton team itself.
In an email chain dated May 13, 2015, ThinkProgress Editor-in-Chief Judd Legum said the coordination "makes zero sense" to him.
Tanden, the CEO of the Center for American Progress (which directs ThinkProgress), agreed.
"I'm not their biggest fan," Tanden said. "But this does seem shady."
Podesta had a simple and enthusiastic response: "Brock $ machine!"
To which Tanden replied: "That's fine. But skirting if not violating law doesn't help her INMHO [sic]."
Podesta's message apparently filtered down even to Tanden's employees.
Glen Fukushima, a senior fellow at CAP, gave $50,000 to Correct the Record in December.
Last Modified: October 31, 2016, 12:59 pm