Report: How GOP Operatives Clandestinely Used Twitter to Bypass Election Laws
Practice exposed by CNN reveals quest by political operatives to exploit murky world of campaign finance laws in age of Citizens United
According to reporting by CNN on Monday, it appears that during this year's mid-term elections shadowy outside Conservative campaign groups and official Republican Party campaigns may have used public, though "hidden in plain sight," Twitter accounts and secret codes to communicate with one another in a clandestine scheme designed to get around campaign finance laws that make direct communication and coordination between the two illegal.
If accurate, the report bolsters arguments made by critics of the enormous role that outside money has played in recent elections. In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizen United decision, which has flooded the electoral landscape with hundreds of millions of unaccountable dollars, independent groups—including SuperPACs or independent 501(c)4 groups like Karl Rove's American Crossroads—are not allowed to coordinate with the political parties running candidates. Experts have said the courts have been niave to believe that such coordination is not going on.
In this case, according to CNN's Chris Moody, it appeared that the Twitter accounts of at least two Conservative groups—American Crossroads and the American Action Network—were among a small group of users accessing an account that was also being monitored by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). In the course of its investigation, CNN reached out to the NRCC for comment about the account. Minutes later, the outlet reported, the Twitter account in questions, as well as others under suspicion, were all deleted.
The Twitter accounts were hidden in plain sight. The profiles were publicly available but meaningless without knowledge of how to find them and decode the information, according to a source with knowledge of the activities.
The practice is the latest effort in the quest by political operatives to exploit the murky world of campaign finance laws at a time when limits on spending in politics are eroding and regulators are being defanged.
The law says that outside groups, such as super PACs and non-profits, can spend freely on political causes as long as they don't coordinate their plans with campaigns. Sharing costly internal polls in private, for instance, could signal to the campaign committees where to focus precious time and resources.
Watch the report: