Oh Hey GOP, Whatcha Doin'? Breakin' Some Laws?

You guys are not going to believe this, but CNN broke a story, and it's got everything -- political malfeasance, coded tweets, Karl Rove! It's a story that once again reinforces how crappy Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's reasoning in Citizens United was, and like most of Yr Wonket's favorite stories, it appears to have come to light only because one group of professional ratfuckers decided to tattle to the press about another group of professional ratfuckers. First, let's go over the facts as they're being presented by CNN's Chris Moody.

Republicans and outside groups used anonymous Twitter accounts to share internal polling data ahead of the midterm elections, CNN has learned, a practice that raises questions about whether they violated campaign finance laws that prohibit coordination. [...]

The profiles were publicly available but meaningless without knowledge of how to find them and decode the information, according to a source with knowledge of the activities. [...]

At least two outside groups and a Republican campaign committee had access to the information posted to the accounts, according to the source. They include American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove; American Action Network, a nonprofit advocacy group, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm for the House GOP.

Key takeaway here: SOMEONE SNITCHED. Was it a disaffected Republican, someone who worked hard on a campaign and got left behind by the transition team? Was this the latest sub rosa tussle between Karl Rove and the Koch brothers in their battle for the soul of the wallet of the Republican Party's donor class? Or was it a Democrat who just, like, sat on this potential violation of campaign finance law until after the election was over? We look forward to reading your blind items in the comments, which we don't allow.

So why is this a problem, you ask? Because it might be against federal law. Outside groups -- 527s, super PACs, etc. -- cannot coordinate directly with candidates or political parties. And because Anthony Kennedy had probably never heard of Twitter when he was writing the majority opinion in Citizens United, he probably never thought about this loophole he was creating.

The law says that outside groups, such as super PACs and non-profits, can spend freely on political causes as long as they don't coordinate their plans with campaigns. Sharing costly internal polls in private, for instance, could signal to the campaign committees where to focus precious time and resources. [...]

Posting the information on Twitter, which is technically public, could provide a convenient loophole to the law — or could run afoul of it.

"It's a line that has not been defined. This is really on the cutting edge," said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization focused on campaign finance issues.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing compared this use of Twitter to Cold War numbers stations -- shortwave radio stations that allowed one-way communication with spies in the field via short bursts of coded information. It's a wholly accurate description of what's going on here, right down to tuning in an obscure frequency in the form of a nobody on Twitter, and if Doctorow's characterization prevails in court (or whatever star chamber the FEC meets in), Republicans will likely have a lotta 'splainin' to do.

That's why Yr Wonket thinks the GOP operatives in question will argue for a different analogy, and one with a much funnier name: the fumblerooski! Follow us here, Wonketeers -- we are about to come at you with a red-blooded American sportsball analogy. Grab a beer if you'd like, or perhaps a tack hammer, whatever.

The fumblerooski is a sportsball play in American tackle football. Basically, the rules of football say that you can't intentionally give the ball to an offensive lineman. But a fumble is, by definition, not giving the ball to another player, so if you can intentionally fumble right next to one of your offensive linemen, then they can pick the ball up and do the thing that was illegal if someone could prove you did it on purpose. The fumblerooski was technically legal, yet it was also so contrary to the spirit of the law that the NCAA and the NFL made special rules and banned it.

See? Totally cogent sportsball analogy, and a fun word to say. Fumblerooski. Rumblefooski. Stumbleboosbee. Now you try!

Anyway, proving intent is tough, so Republicans will probably get away with this. Materially, the practice doesn't seem much different than the posting of candidate B roll on public YouTube channels, which gave us #McConnelling back in March. As long as Republicans can stand their ground and insist that they truly believed they weren't breaking the law, they should be fine.

The accounts that CNN reviewed were active in the months ahead of this month's election, which gave Republicans their largest majority in the House since World War II and control of the Senate. They were live until Nov. 3 but deleted minutes after CNN contacted the NRCC with questions.

Oh. Well. Lawyer up, fellas.


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