Last week I wrote about a leaked John Podesta email in which Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, and Podesta refer to Media Matter’s David Brock as an “unhinged narcissist.” I suggested that remark, which Tanden amplifed as “unhinged soulless narcissist,” might be hard to recover from. But it turns out that wasn’t the only time Tanden and Podesta threw shade at Brock.
On May 12, 2015 the Washington Post published an article about Brock’s plans to have his Correct the Record PAC coordinate directly with the Clinton campaign. That prompted Think Progress editor Judd Legum to send an email to Neera Tanden the next day saying simply, “This makes zero sense to me.”
Tanden forwarded that message to John Podesta adding, “I’m not their biggest fan but this does seem shady.” Podesta replied, “Brock $ machine!”
From the Washington Post, here’s how Brock planned to get around the laws prohibiting PACs from coordinating with campaigns:
Correct the Record believes it can avoid the coordination ban by relying on a 2006 Federal Election Commission regulation that declared that content posted online for free, such as blogs, is off limits from regulation. The “Internet exemption” said that such free postings do not constitute campaign expenditures, allowing independent groups to consult with candidates about the content they post on their sites. By adopting the measure, the FEC limited its online jurisdiction to regulating paid political ads.
But the Post story points out that’s pretty questionable. In fact, in an update to the story even Correct the Record says that exception wouldn’t work for them:
FEC rules specify that online activities are exempted from campaign finance rules if they are conducted by “uncompensated” individuals, campaign finance lawyers noted. It is unclear how Correct the Record, whose staff will be paid, plans to navigate that restriction.
“The moment anyone is paid to engage in Internet activity it falls outside of that exemption,” said Jason Torchinsky, an election law attorney who represents many conservative groups. “If you are a super PAC paying people and coordinating your activities with the campaign, you are not covered by the individual Internet exemption and are making impermissible in-kind contributions.”
[Update: Correct the Record officials say they are not relying on the individual Internet exemption, but rather a related exemption in the definition of coordinated communications.]