Via CNN, a reminder of just how phony the phony distinction is between campaigns and Super PACs. They’re supposed to be completely independent entities, remember, barred from any coordination. Watch the two clips below, one from Mitt’s own campaign in 2007 and the other brand new from Restore Our Future, and see how uncoordinated they are.

According to a campaign-finance lawyer interviewed by HuffPo, this is illegal:

“Super PACs are prohibited from making coordinated communications,” Ryan said. “Super PACs are also prohibited from making payments to candidates,” he added. “There’s an FEC regulation that treats the dissemination, distribution or republication of campaign materials as a contribution from the super PAC to the candidate regardless of whether or not it’s coordinated with the candidate,” he said referring to the Federal Election Commission…

The Romney campaign could also face questions about its involvement if the republished campaign ad had been copyrighted by the campaign in 2007. If the campaign granted permission to the super PAC to use its copyrighted material, this would come into conflict with the FEC’s rules against coordination…

Restore Our Future’s treasurer, Charles Spies, told The Huffington Post via an email that the group “purchased the rights to the footage from it’s [sic] owner Cold Harbor films, which did not entail interacting with the Romney campaign.”

The Campaign Legal Center’s Ryan, however, said that this would not matter, according to the FEC rule about republication of campaign materials: “If the ad was prepared by Romney or an agent of Romney, then this rule applies. The rule would be meaningless if you could transfer the legal rights from the campaign to another actor.”

I wonder if they did this because it might be illegal, knowing that it would get media attention and that that would boost the ad’s profile. I’ve speculated about that before with ads from Team Mitt but it makes sense here too: The episode recounted, in which Romney shut down Bain for days so that the staff could help find the missing daughter of one of his partners, is one of his finest moments. (Snopes has a nice summary of what happened.) Maybe they figured that it’d be worth paying an FEC fine for recycling the ad if the resulting “controversy” ended up with this spot being covered — and re-aired — on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, etc, replete with commentary about what a noble thing Romney had done in coming to the rescue of his friend. It’s an ideal showcase for his personal virtues on the eve of the big Arizona/Michigan vote, and unless the resulting fine is very steep, an operation like Restore Our Future that’s flush with cash can probably handle it without a problem. Crafty.