Twitter was used in "cutting edge" scheme to evade campaign finance laws

The Federal Election Commission rarely enforces laws against coordination between political campaigns and groups making independent expenditures for and against candidates. Meanwhile, outside spending is exploding to the point that in some races, independent expenditures dwarf money spent by the candidates.

As a result, each election cycle brings more actions that raise suspicions of campaigns and outside groups coordinating their work. In Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, Joni Ernst’s campaign magically knew exactly when to launch a very small ad buy to maximal effect–on the same day an outside group released a months-old unflattering video of Bruce Braley. Later on, a super PAC came into existence solely to run a $1 million television commercial targeting Braley, and that super PAC just happened to be headquartered in the same office as a senior consultant for Ernst’s campaign.

CNN’s Chris Moody reported today on a newly uncovered, brazen scheme to share information between campaigns and political advocacy groups. Click through to read his whole piece about Twitter accounts that communicated polling data from competitive U.S. House races.

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. […]

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. […]

The tweets captured by screenshots stretched back to July, but the groups have communicated in this manner for four years, the source said. Staffers for each group deleted individual tweets every few months, so only the past few months of data were available when CNN first viewed the Twitter accounts.

Deleting online content minutes after a journalist starts asking questions sends a strong signal that these operatives knew they were doing something shady. Moreover, Philip Bump noticed that the American Action Network was one of the biggest outside spenders in the Congressional race in Florida’s 26th district. That race was the apparent focus of at least one now-deleted tweet containing polling data, which showed a very close race in FL-26.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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IA-Sen: Sam Clovis running, Joni Ernst retains high-powered consultant

Sam Clovis announced yesterday that he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Clovis is ending his conservative talk radio program and has a sabbatical for the coming academic year from Morningside College in Sioux City. After the jump I’ve posted more background on Clovis, including the statement of purpose he posted on his campaign website, as well as highlights from his news conference yesterday. You can watch clips from his speech here, and he is on Twitter here. Many Iowa conservatives will buy what Clovis is selling, but can he raise the money to run a strong statewide campaign?

Meanwhile, Alexander Burns reported at Politico yesterday that State Senator Joni Ernst is consulting with GOP strategist David Polyansky as she lays the groundwork for a Senate campaign.

“She’s making all the steps necessary to advance towards a campaign,” said one Republican close to Ernst. “I think she has the core nucleus [of a campaign] in place so that, should she decide to pull the trigger, she’d be able to do so fairly soon.”

The Sunday Des Moines Register featured a guest editorial by Mark Jacobs, a former energy company executive who is also considering the Senate race. After the jump I’ve posted some bullet points from that editorial, which focused on next steps for Iowa in education reform.

If no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 2014 primary, a statewide convention will determine the GOP nominee for Senate.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that Polyansky previously worked for the presidential campaigns of Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann, although he bailed on Bachmann a few months before the Iowa caucuses.

SECOND UPDATE: I keep forgetting Paul Lunde, who is also seeking the GOP nomination for Senate. James Lynch reports that if elected, Lunde “plans to introduce what he calls the ‘second Bill of Rights’ – 12 constitutional amendments that include making Social Security and Medicare permanent, changing the Electoral College, instituting a limited national sales tax and setting term limits for members of Congress.”

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IA-Sen: Braley's in, plus more on Rove's power play (updated)

Representative Bruce Braley e-mailed supporters this morning to confirm that he is “setting up a committee to run for the U.S. Senate.” Excerpts from the e-mail are after the jump.

I’ve also enclosed below the latest news on Karl Rove’s effort to prevent unelectable Republican candidates from winning U.S. Senate primaries. Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace wants conservatives to try to “beat Karl Rove at his own game.”

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Karl Rove's next target may be Steve King

After a dismal performance by his political vehicles in 2012, the man once known as “Bush’s brain” is working to stop unelectable Republican candidates from winning GOP primaries in 2014. Jeff Zeleny reports in today’s New York Times that Karl Rove’s super-PAC American Crossroads is creating the “Conservative Victory Project.” One of Rove’s associates confirmed that stopping Representative Steve King from becoming the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa will be a priority.

Details and toplines from the first poll on the open IA-Sen race are below.

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