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Thursday, July 17, 2008

DSCC Ad for Ronnie Musgrove

I'd been unable to find and capture this ad and get it up on YouTube myself, but luckily someone else has:


I know there's lots of right wing noise about how this ad supposedly violates the Coordinated Communications restrictions of the FEC, but as far as I can see, it does nothing of the sort. From a comment I left on another site:
For the record, the FEC has a three-pronged coordination test, and according to FEC rules on the matter, all three must be met for something to be considered coordinated communications. All three. And, additionally, they apply to outside groups, not political party committees (of which the DSCC is most certainly one):
Three-Prong Coordination Test

FEC regulations establish a three-prong test to determine whether a communication is coordinated. All three prongs of the test—payment, content and conduct—must be met for a communication to be deemed coordinated and thus an in-kind contribution.

Payment Prong

In order to satisfy the payment prong, the communication need only be paid for, in whole or in part, by someone other than a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, a political party committee or an agent of the above.
I do believe that the DSCC qualifies as a political party committee. So, strike one, and according to the FEC rules, game over.

But Let's look further:
Content Prong

The content prong relates to the subject matter and timing of the communication. A communication that meets any one of these four standards satisfies this part of the test:

1. A public communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate;
Okay, I'll grant you that one, but since the DSCC is an allowed entity, no matter. Or should I suppose all of the DCCC buys on behalf of Travis Childers were illegal too?
2. A communication that is an “electioneering communication” as defined in 11 CFR 100.29 (i.e. a broadcast communication that mentions a federal candidate and is distributed to the relevant electorate 30 days before the primary election or 60 days before the general election);
We're still outside that window
3. A public communication that republishes, disseminates or distributes in whole or in part campaign materials prepared by a candidate or a candidate’s campaign committee;
(this ad was not made by the candidate nor his election committee.)
or

4. A public communication that is:

a. Made within 90 days before an election and:
(since we're outside the window, all of the following cease to matter)
* Refers to a clearly identified House or Senate candidate and is publicly distributed in that candidate’s jurisdiction; or
* Refers to a political party, is coordinated with a House or Senate candidate, and is publicly distributed in that candidate’s jurisdiction; or
* Refers to a political party, is coordinated with a political party, and is publicly distributed during a midterm election cycle

b. Made 120 days before a Presidential primary election through the general election and:
since this is a Senatorial and not Presidential election, the following are moot
* Refers to a clearly identified Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate and is publicly distributed in a jurisdiction before the clearly identified federal candidate’s election in that jurisdiction; or
* Refers to a party, is coordinated with a Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate, and is publicly distributed in that candidate’s jurisdiction; or
* Refers to a political party, is coordinated with a political party, and is publicly distributed during the Presidential election cycle.

For communications that refer to both a party and a clearly identified federal candidate see 109.21(c)(4)(i)-(iv)
Okay, what about the third and final prong?
Conduct Prong

The conduct prong examines the interactions between the person paying for the communication and the candidate, authorized committee or political party committee, or their agents. A communication satisfies this part of the test if it meets any one of the five standards regarding the conduct of the person paying for the communication and the candidate, the candidate’s committee, a political party committee or agents of the above:

1. If the communication is created, produced or distributed at the request or suggestion of the candidate, candidate’s committee, a party committee or agents of the above; or the communication is created, produced or distributed at the suggestion of the person paying for the communication and the candidate, authorized committee, political party committee or agent of any of the foregoing assents to the suggestion. 11 CFR 109.21(d)(1).

2. If the candidate, the candidate’s authorized committee or party committee is materially involved in decisions regarding the content, intended audience, means or mode of the communication, specific media outlet used, the timing or frequency or size or prominence of a communication. 11 CFR 109.21(d)(2).

3. If the communication is created, produced or distributed after one or more substantial discussions4 about the communication between the person paying for the communication or the employees or agents of that person and the candidate, the candidate’s committee, the candidate’s opponent or opponent’s committee, a political party committee or agents of the above. 11 CFR 109.21(d)(3).

4. If the person paying for the communication employs a common vendor to create, produce or distribute the communication, and that vendor:

* Is currently providing services or provided services within the previous 120 days with the candidate or party committee that puts the vendor in a position to acquire information about the campaign plans, projects, activities or needs of the candidate or political party committee; and

* Uses or conveys information about the plans or needs of the candidate or political party, or information previously used by the vendor in serving the candidate or party, and that information is material to the creation, production or distribution of the communication. 11 CFR 109.21(d)(4).

5. If a person who has previously been an employee or independent contractor of a candidate’s campaign committee or a party committee during the previous 120 days uses or conveys information about the plans or needs of the candidate or political party committee to the person paying for the communication, and that information is material to the creation, production or distribution of the communication. 11 CFR 109.21(d)(5).

Formal agreement or collaboration between the person paying for the communication and the candidate, authorized committee or political party committee, or their agents, is not required. 11 CFR 109.21(e).
From where I sit, all of that's on the up and up. If anyone has proof to the contrary, please do share.
Like I said, in order to be in violation of the FEC's Coordinated Communications rule, an act must violate all three of those prongs. This ad hits none. Especially since it comes from an allowed entity.

4 comments: to “ DSCC Ad for Ronnie Musgrove

  • Anonymous
    July 17, 2008 8:58 PM  

    Hmmm...

    A 28 second Youtube video that ends with the next commercial. Looks like someone cut the first few seconds of this ad out. Wonder how that effects the content?

  • Mitch
    July 17, 2008 9:37 PM  

    Personally, I don't think anybody intentionally cut anything. More likely, it's probably just a matter of the person who snagged it missing the opening, hitting "record" just when they'd realized the ad was on.

    I sincerely doubt there's anything nefarious or content changing going on there.

    But, as I've said, I'll be looking for it on our local channels. And if I'm able to grab it myself, I will make sure to get the whole thing.

    Wouldn't want to miss the opening 1.75 seconds where Ronnie declares his allegiance to Mother Pelosi, burns the American flag, prays toward Mecca with al Obama, and hits the poor old lady over the head with her own cane.

  • Mathias Lex
    July 18, 2008 8:22 AM  

    Good post. But the noise isn't that it violate coordinated communications, but that it violates campaign spending limits. This is obviously a commercial for Ronnie Musgrove who is running for Senate. To say otherwise strains the limits of credulity. The FEC limits a National Committee like the DSCC from spending in excess of $180,800 in a coordinated effort like this in Mississippi. They have exceeded that.

  • Mitch
    July 18, 2008 8:26 AM  

    Agreed, ML, but those are the limits for an ad that meets the coordinated communications threshold (as described above).

    This ad does not seem to meet the three-pronged test to be categorized as such. That's my point.

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