GOP candidates’ super PAC films test finance laws
Before Carly Fiorina announced she was running for president, she sat down to tape footage for a supportive political action committee that is poised to begin running it this week as part of a pro-Fiorina documentary — in a move that tests the spirit of campaign finance laws.
Both Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have done the same thing, sitting down to film with super PACs supporting their campaigns, despite laws that say the candidates and PACs aren’t allowed to coordinate.
The trick, in each case, was the candidates sat down in the weeks and months before they officially declared, making it legal, but calling into question the efficacy of the campaign finance laws that prohibit coordination.
“It is not the spirit of the law,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist. “They might be abiding by the letter of the law, but this is not what was intended.”
Mr. O’Connell said that there is a “very blurry line” that is making it “hard to tell where the campaign ends and the super PAC begins.”
“I think eventually you are going to have reform on this, but as of right now it is open season for everyone,” he said. “How the super PAC evolved from 2012 to now is amazing. Eventually someone is going to have to put their foot down, and the only question is when.”
Born in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which kept in place limits on candidates’ campaigns but took the reins off outside interest groups, super PACs played a big role in the 2012 campaign, and are stretching their wings this year.
The PACs are free to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including taking massive donations from individual donors — but they are not supposed to have any contact with declared candidates, which would be illegal coordination. So candidates and PACs have invented all sorts of workarounds, including the campaigns telegraphing their strategies publicly so the PACs know how to proceed and working out details beforehand.
That’s the case with the footage now being used in ads.
The Carly for America super PAC on Tuesday is holding a world premiere event to launch their “Citizen Carly” documentary at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse just outside Washington.
The group is billing the film as an “unprecedented documentary film about an outsider who broke the barriers and changed the order of things.” And the trailer features footage of Ms. Fiorina sitting down by herself and with her husband, Frank, for interviews in which she shares details of her life story, including her account of her record as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and her bout with cancer.
“The documentary was filmed by CARLY for America after we launched in the hope Carly would run, and before she actually decided to run for president,” said Katie Hughes, spokesperson for the super PAC.
Mr. Kasich filmed footage for a supporting PAC, New Day for America, which is already using it in an ad that highlighted the former House Budget Committee’s role in producing federal budgets that led to a surplus in the late 1990s.
“It can happen again,” Mr. Kasich says in the 30-second spot, speaking directly into the camera.