The Clinton campaign sought to use election law loopholes to maximize their coordination with independent big-money committees, all while suing the Republicans if they attempted similar tactics.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been running on a platform that includes campaign finance reform, including overturning Citizens United v. FEC, the landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision that allowed larger political speech activities for nonprofit committees.
“While we believe that such a program is legally permissible, it would be breaking new ground … the media reaction to such a program could be toxic.”
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Despite that court decision, it is still illegal for campaigns to directly coordinate with these nonprofit committees, known as super PACs, to advocate for the election or defeat of specific candidates. Super PACs in turn can garner unlimited donations from individuals and corporations.
Yet the May 2015 memo shows the Clinton campaign is talking out of two sides of its mouth, using loopholes in the law to coordinate with such committees while plotting to sue the Republicans for similar activity. The strategy memo was unearthed by WikiLeaks on Wednesday. The email had been forwarded to John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chair, whose Gmail was hacked in March.
WikiLeaks has been posting thousands of Podesta’s hacked emails every day since Oct. 7.
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In the May 18, 2015, email, campaign manager Robby Mook shared a memo with Clinton that laid out a four-part plan to circumvent campaign finance regulations. The final part of the plan was to bedevil the Republican Party and Jeb Bush — then thought to be the likely GOP nominee — with complaints to the Federal Election Commission.
But first the memo, written by Marc Elias, noted the Clinton campaign committee would be pushing the legal envelope by directly coordinating with Correct the Record, a super PAC founded by liberal activist and Clinton ally David Brock.
Correct the Record got around the FEC rules by not paying for broadcast advertisements, phone banks, mass mailings, or canvassing programs. Elias said FEC rules only specifically barred coordination tied to “public communications.” Coordinating on items that would not ultimately be included in paid media would those allow the campaign to skirt the law.
The next loophole Elias identified would allow the campaign to coordinate some activities with Priorities USA, the Democratic Party’s largest super PAC.
Elias said it was permissible if the campaign worked with the group 120 days before a primary election. Even so, Elias warned they were testing the limits.
“While we believe that such a program is legally permissible, it would be breaking new ground — more so than what CTR is doing,” Elias wrote. “As evidenced by the press scrutiny of CTR’s announcement, the media reaction to such a program could be toxic.”
Elias then concluded they would attack the GOP for its third-party committee efforts, and work to “compel” immediate action by the FEC to hobble Republican efforts.
“As we noted at the outset, we are also exploring ways to attack efforts by opponents that appear to be legally impermissible,” wrote Elias.
Elias warned the campaign not to sue on things like coordination with Correct the Record, because they didn’t want those efforts curtailed.
“If we proceed with this effort, we will take steps to ensure that any suit pursued on our side is on a topic that cannot easily be applied to any conduct on our side,” Elias said.