Republicans seem to have coordinated with outside groups before the last election by sharing internal polling data. Various groups shared the data through anonymous, public Twitter accounts that used a secret code only decipherable to those in the know — a practice that could be a violation of campaign finance laws.
CNN reported Monday that groups including American Crossroads and the American Action Network may have collaborated with the National Republican Congressional Committee to share information that could help them decide where to focus money and resources. The Twitter accounts, which posted polling data using a string of numbers (for example: “CA-40/43–44/49–44/44–50/36–44/49–10/16/14–52 →49/476–10s”), were deleted immediately after a CNN reporter contacted the NRCC.
Federal Elections Commission vice chair Ann Ravel responded to the report on Twitter, saying that the issue may come before the Commission, “but coordination rules [are] sadly murky.” Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, also told CNN the FEC has not yet addressed the Twitter loophole, which could be illegal.
The U.S. Supreme Court said in its Citizens United decision in 2010 that outside groups can raise unlimited funds as long as they don’t coordinate with campaigns, but the anonymous Twitter accounts are not the only loophole that both Republican and Democratic campaigns have found to the largely-undefined stipulation against “coordination”. Members of both parties have been accused of posting information on their campaign websites with information on how they would like outside groups to direct their spending.
Earlier this year, Senator Mitch McConnell (D-KY) was mocked for posting a montage of B-roll on YouTube with the hopes that the footage of the Senator signing papers at his desk and speaking with constituents will appear in TV ads funded by super PACs. Democratic candidates including Bruce Braley, Kay Hagan and Mark Begich also attempted to conceal B-roll footage that could only be found through small links at the bottom of their webpages.
In another attempt to coordinate publicly with outside groups, the NRCC has also made a large amount of opposition research on the website DemocratFacts.org to be used in competitive races, including the March special election in Florida’s 13th District.