GOP can­di­dates’ su­per PAC films test fi­nance laws

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

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.

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