This really makes minced meat of our campaign finance laws. Mitt Romney is holding a “Victory Leadership Retreat” this weekend in Utah. It sounds like a fine affair, if your idea of a good time is listening to former secretaries of state James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, Sen. John McCain, Rep. Paul Ryan, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and a parade of mostly older white men opine on national and world affairs. But among the guests is the head of a leading SuperPAC that’s supposedly barred from coordinating with any political campaign:
Then, “Media insight” will feature Romney counsel and longtime GOP attorney Ben Ginsberg; Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol, editors and co-founders of The Weekly Standard; GOP strategist Mary Matalin; and Bush strategist and American Crossroads founder, Karl Rove.
So here’s a big meeting between the campaign and its donors, designed specifically for “strategizing”, and the head of the SuperPACs American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, dedicated to electing Romney, will be in attendance.
I know that under our broken FEC, there’s really no such thing as illegal coordination, but if we had a functioning body surely this would raise a red flag, no? It’s not much of a stretch:
Mary Boyle, vice president for communications at Common Cause, told ThinkProgress that having one of the leaders of an allied Super PAC at at campaign event with major donors “seems to make a mockery of the rule that bans coordination between a super PAC and a candidate.”
Tara Malloy, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center agreed that this presents appearance issues, but would probably not violate any coordination rules. She told ThinkProgress that “the coordination rule is a pretty slim reed between candidates and the SuperPACs that support those candidates. It’s not by any means and airtight barrier between those two.” In order to violate the rules, a candidate would have to have a “substantial discussion” about the Super PAC’s advertising strategies — something Romney and Rove are unlikely to do at this retreat.
Basically, Stephen Colbert’s segments on his SuperPAC have been totally accurate. There’s almost no limit to what a candidate and a SuperPAC organizer can do together that would violate the current set of rules. Which is why the rules are functionally illegitimate.