Friday, October 27, 2017

PAC head to manage Ward campaign for US Senate - but is it legal?

Bear with me. This is relevant to the 2018 race to fill retiring Senator Jeff Flake’s seat.

Stephen Colbert announces candidacy, forms superPAC

You might remember, back in 2012, that Stephen Colbert announced campaign for President. He also formed a super PAC. Supposedly those two entities are barred from coordination. But, thanks to “Citizens United”, campaigns and PACs can easily skirt this leaky firewall.

Here is the essence of how the coordination between Colbert’s super PAC and his campaign became legal. Snippets are from the Wikipedia entry Colbert Super PAC. (For an example of the Colbert Report on this topic, watch this video.)

During the January 12, 2012 episode of The Colbert Report, Colbert announced his plans to run for “President of the United States of South Carolina.” Colbert’s lawyer, Trevor Potter, made it clear that it is illegal for Colbert to run for president while active in his Super PAC (though it would be perfectly legal for him to “volunteer” on its behalf). Colbert then signed over control of his Super PAC to Jon Stewart (President pro tempore), and announced that the organization would now be referred to as “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC”.[34] Immediately after this legal block was removed, Colbert announced his decision to form an exploratory committee for his run for “President of the United States of South Carolina”.[35] Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates or political parties since they are “independent”; however, a candidate may talk to his super PAC through the media and the Super PAC can listen, just like everybody else.[36]

In a press release, the new PAC president, Jon Stewart, denied that he and Colbert would secretly coordinate their efforts: “Stephen and I have in no way have worked out a series of Morse-code blinks to convey information with each other on our respective shows.”[37]

According to experts, Colbert’s actions were perfectly legal and shine a light on how the financing of elections has dramatically changed since the Citizens United ruling.[18][19] Speaking in 2014, Trevor Potter said:

[Colbert] was able to show America the loopholes (or “loop-chasms” as he called them) in the laws designed to regulate coordination between candidates and supposedly “independent” groups. By having his own Super PAC and 501(c)(4), Stephen could evolve right alongside the campaigns—or often be a step ahead of them. His understanding of the possibilities inherent in the legal confusion was keen enough to discover and exploit absurd legalities before it became clear that actual candidates and political activists were doing the same thing.[23]

Potter called Colbert’s ability to not only quickly understand complicated finance legal concepts but to also make them funny “pure genius”.[23]

What does this have to do with the 2018 race for US Senate? Continue with these snippets from the Friday edition of the Daily Star.

PAC head now campaign chief for Kelli Ward in Arizona Senate race.

The chairman of a political action committee backing Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward is assuming a senior role in her campaign, prompting questions about coordination between the groups, which is prohibited by federal law.

Veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins, chairman and founder of Great America PAC, will remain head of the so-called super PAC, the group’s lawyer said Wednesday, as the campaign announced that Rollins was being named Ward’s campaign chairman.

Campaign finance law bars collaboration between a candidate’s campaign and super PACs such as Great America, which can solicit unlimited contributions to promote candidates, unlike federally regulated candidate committees.

Great America lawyer Dan Backer said Rollins will recuse himself from any PAC discussions of the Ward race. The group, affiliated with President Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon, also plans no further expenditures to promote Ward beyond the $20,000 it spent in August.

Gawd, my gut hurts from LOL.

So here are the slots in the frame and who fills them.

Candidates: Stephen Colbert, Kelli Ward
PAC chairs: Jon Stewart, Ed Rollins
Legal advisors: Trevor Potter, Dan Backer

See? Reality and satire are perfectly blurred … as is campaign financing since Citizens United.

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