Lately we’ve seen the impact social networks can have on the election cycle. The effect on voter participation can be cause for concern over potential biasing of the voting public. Another impact that’s been spotted is some potentially illegal (or at least shady) activity relating to campaign financing on Twitter.
As a quick background on the matter, since the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, Super PACs (political action committees) have been funneling potentially massive amounts of money into political campaigns. When this level of money is involved, it seems there’s always the specter of corruption.
Reporting from CNN indicates that certain PACs were sending out what were thinly disguised coded messages about polling data. The problem with actions like this from PACs is that those campaigns are supposed to be independent from the campaigns of actual candidates, where tighter financing rules apply.
Collusion between candidates and these PACs are considered illegal, and could be prosecuted by the Federal Election Commission. However, because the tweeting is a new activity that hasn’t been seen before, nobody seems to be sure.
Kenneth Gross, former head of the FEC enforcement division, told CNN:
If it truly requires some sort of Ovaltine decoder ring to make heads or tails of the information, then there certainly is the possibility that there was some pre-arrangement. Just making [the polling data] public is not enough. You have to further meet the requirement of no pre-arrangement or coordination. But it is the burden of the government to demonstrate that.
Current FEC vice chair Ann Ravel tweeted a response to CNN’s article:
@asmith83 Shows that tech changing politics-this issue may come before us – but coordination rules sadly murky
— Ann Ravel (@AnnMRavel) November 17, 2014
It’s unclear if the FEC has the legal authority to challenge this kind of collusion, which CNN says has been going on for a number of years.