Republicans scored big wins during the midterm elections earlier this month, and to help their cause they may have used Twitter to skirt around already weak campaign finance laws, CNN reports.
Laws are in place prohibiting outside groups from privately coordinating with each other or official political campaigns. For example, super PACs and nonprofits are allowed to spend unrestricted amounts of money on political causes, but they cannot privately communicate and strategize with political campaigns or other similar groups. Private communication could lead to campaigns and outside groups coordinating on strategy and allocation of resources, which is not allowed.
To get around the law, the GOP used anonymous Twitter accounts to tweet coded internal polling information prior to the midterms. The tweets look like a meaningless jumble of numbers to outsiders (one example, since deleted: CA-40/43-44/49-44/44-50/36-44/49-10/16/14-52–>49/476-10s), but presumably insiders were given information to decode the tweets and understand their content so they could strategize accordingly.
The tweets are public but encoded, and that’s the crux of the issue: Does this type of information sharing break current campaign finance law?
While sharing expensive internal polling data privately would be a violation of the law, as it could be seen as campaigns telling outside groups where and how to spend their resources, posting the information on public Twitter accounts, even though it’s in code, may not actually be illegal due to the unclear nature of current campaign finance regulations.
In response to the story, Federal Election Commission Vice Chair Ann Ravel tweeted that this “shows that tech [is] changing politics… but coordination rules [are] sadly murky.”
Update 11/21/2014 11:30am ET: According to the Huffington Post, Democrats used the same practice in 2012.