An investigation by the International Business Times has turned up evidence that the campaign of GOP candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has been illegally coordinating campaign stops with a super PAC supporting her — in direct conflict with FEC laws prohibiting such collaborations.
According to IBT, candidates can receive political donations from individuals, but the amount is capped at a few thousands dollars. Super PACs, however, can receive unlimited amounts from donors. Super PACs are thus barred from coordinating with candidates’ campaigns directly.
Representatives with Carly for America say they do not coordinate with her campaign. In September, the New York Times reported that Fiorina’s campaign has aggressively exploited a loophole in elections law by publishing a public Google calendar showing the events she has planned. A representative from the super PAC told the Times that members simply look at Fiorina’s calendar and show up.
“It’s the same way that any other person in that area would do; it’s just that we come armed with ways that you can sign up and volunteer and help Carly out,” Carly for America spokeswoman Leslie Shedd told the Times.
But a review of documents by IBT indicates it’s not that simple.
A super PAC staffer listed on the event page played an active role in the planning of an event at Winthrop University in South Carolina, corresponding about the event from university employees and taking an advance tour of the location.
“This fits the larger narrative that the super PAC is basically running the campaign’s events,” Larry Noble, a former FEC counsel now working for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, told IBT. “The whole thing frankly makes a mockery of the law.”
An event at Georgia Tech last month appears to have been entirely organized by the PAC, according to emails provided to IBT by the university. Carly for America staffers provided services one would expect a campaign staffer to do — signing up volunteers and passing out flyers.
Noble said the activities of the super PAC were in-kind donations — forbidden by election law.
The IBT notes the FEC is notoriously slow to act and often deadlocked, as it is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans.
Regardless, issue of “dark money” in campaigns and the ability of super PACs and candidates to so openly flout the spirit of election law sets a foreboding precedent for elections to come.
“Somebody needs to care about this stuff,” Richard Skinner, a policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation, told IBT. “Otherwise someone else will be doing this. Bigger campaigns — more-competitive campaigns — will start doing this. And the way the FEC is, goodness knows when any enforcement’s coming.”