Third-party political groups are all the rage these days, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision deregulating corporate election expenditures.
Bottom line: Newly constituted Super PACs can collect as much money as they want from whomever they want to spend however they want whenever they want.
There’s only one restriction: Super PACs can’t coordinate their efforts with the candidates they support.
Except when they do.
(And by “they,” of course, we mean Mitt Romney’s campaign.)
Exhibit A (via ABC’s The Note):
Super PAC Strategy. In Tennessee, another super Tuesday state, the Romney campaign and Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney’s presidential campaign, appear to be taking an almost “identical” approach to their efforts to court voters. The Tennessean reports that a locally broadcast commercial paid for by Restore Our Future takes practically the exact same approach as an email sent out Mitt Romney’s campaign. Super PAC’s and the campaigns they support are not legally allowed to coordinate.
From The Tennessean:
Although presidential campaigns and the political action committees that support them aren’t supposed to coordinate their messages, they sometimes seem to be singing from the same sheet of music.
A TV commercial broadcast locally for the past week by Restore Our Future, a purportedly independent political action committee supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and an email sent out this week by Romney’s campaign follow an almost identical line of attack — and in essentially the same sequence.
Each touts roughly the same three positive Romney achievements, interspersed with two common criticisms of Republican rival candidate Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator and congressman from Pennsylvania.
Restore Our Future is an example of a new type of political action committee, known as a “super PAC,” that can raise unlimited amounts of money from donors, remapping the contours of presidential campaigns. The uncanny similarities between its ad and the Romney campaign’s email raise questions about whether the two groups illegally coordinated with each other, experts say.
The aforementioned ad:
What one of the aforementioned experts says:
“These people talk to one another. There’s no question about it,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “They probably don’t do it in a way that can be recorded or traced. Maybe they have lunch. You know, they’re old friends.
“The idea of separation is a fiction. It’s become a joke. That’s why it is made into a real joke by (comedians Jon) Stewart and (Stephen) Colbert.”
Exhibit B (via MSNBC’s First Read):
The pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future is going up with an ad in Michigan and Arizona, starting tonight, that focuses on the story of Mitt Romney helping to lead the search for his business partner’s daughter who went missing in New York City in the 1990s.
The story is true, but the ad is recycled.
In fact, the ad run by a SUPER PAC, called “Saved,” is word-for-word the same ad that the Romney CAMPAIGN ran in 2007, called “The Search.”
The only differences appear to be slightly different video of New York City and a different sign off. Instead of “I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message,” it’s “Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message.”
The 2007 Romney ad:
The 2012 Restore Our Future ad:
So, now that the Romneynauts have dropped the veil, some counterweights:
• From Poynter:
What journalists need to know about Super PAC ads
This is the first presidential election in which Americans will be inundated with television advertisements aired by Super Political Action Committees. Often negative, these ads frequently mislead voters, provide little or no information, are often inaccurate and reveal the media’s unclean hands when it comes to undermining democracy, observers warn. And it’s about to get worse.
• Consequently, from techPresident:
Fact-Checking Group Launches Web Video Campaign To Discourage Flood of Deceptive SuperPAC Ads
A fact-checking web site run by the University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday launched an ambitious new attempt to stem the expected flood of deceptive television advertising placed by third-party political groups on broadcast networks by providing the public with a new tool with which to contact station managers who would be accepting those ads.
• Inevitably, from NPR’s All Things Considered:
2012 Political TV: Ads, Lies And Videotape
It’s no secret that the airwaves in the GOP primary states have been full of negative ads, charges and counter charges.
Earlier this month, the campaign of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich asked TV stations to pull off the air an attack ad sponsored by Restore Our Future, the superPAC backing Mitt Romney. The ad was “patently false, misleading, and defamatory,” Gingrich’s lawyer said in a letter to Georgia TV stations.
The letter asked the stations to refrain from airing the ad at the risk of “potential civil liability.”
The offending ad:
The Romney campaign’s response: I got your potential civil liability right here.
Sadly, that’s the truth.