The message from Sal Russo, the chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, was breathless. “We just got off the phone with the McDaniel campaign,” Russo wrote in an email to the group’s supporters, “and they need our help!”
The problem: The Tea Party Express is an independent group that is promising to intervene in the Mississippi Republican runoff election between Senate candidate Chris McDaniel and Sen. Thad Cochran. As such, the group is not legally allowed to coordinate strategy with McDaniel, or his campaign.
“That would seem to be pretty clear coordination,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending, of the Russo email.
Under federal election law, outside groups like Russo’s, which is registered as the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, are allowed to spend money unlimitedly to benefit candidates, but with the restriction that they are not allowed to coordinate spending. A phone call between them urging support, “to me, clearly contradicts the rules,” Krumholz said. “I would think this would raise the red flag for enforcement folks at the Federal Election Commission.”
Russo told National Journal, “We just can’t coordinate expenditures, and we don’t do that.”
The Tea Party Express has not yet reported spending any money on McDaniel’s behalf, but the email suggested that such support is imminent. “We are making emergency preparations and plans to head back to Mississippi to campaign for Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel,” read one part of the email.
The group ended April with $847,000 in cash and about $95,000 in debts. It has reported spending about $161,000 in so-called independent expenditures thus far this cycle.
The goal of the Russo email was to bolster that war chest, specifically by soliciting money from supporters to help McDaniel, who finished first in the Mississippi primary this week but below the 50 percent threshold he needed to win outright. A runoff will be held in less than three weeks.
“The Tea Party Express is going all in and heading down to Mississippi,” Russo wrote.
Taylor Budowich, executive director of Tea Party Express, said there was no illegal coordination, even if the email “reads a little odd.”
“We congratulated the campaign on winning the primary,” Budowich said of the phone call. He said the McDaniel campaign did not ask for any assistance. “There probably should be a period there, but it’s two separate statements,” he said. “”¦ It’s not the campaign asked us for our help.”
“The law says we cannot coordinate expenditures,” Budowich continued, “You can communicate with a campaign. You can’t coordinate expenditures. Completely, two different things.”
“Chris McDaniel is proud to have the support of the Tea Party Express, and we were happy to receive a call from them expressing their renewed support going into a new electoral cycle, and, as required by law, we avoided any conversation about what they intend to do,” said Noel Fritsch, a spokesman for McDaniel.
What We're Following See More »
After keeping the information private for most of the lead-up to the debate on Monday, it has been revealed that longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines has been playing the role of Donald Trump in her debate prep. Reines knows Clinton better than most, able to identify both her strengths and weaknesses, and his selection for a sparring partner shows that Clinton is preparing for the brash and confrontational Donald Trump many have come to expect.
- A national Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Clinton leading Trump by just two points among likely voters, 46% to 44%.
- A national Bloomberg poll out Monday morning by Selzer & Co. has Clinton and Trump tied at 46% in a two-way race, and Trump ahead 43% to 41% in a four-way race.
- A CNN/ORC poll in Colorado shows likely voters’ support for Trump at 42%, 41% for Clinton, and a CNN/ORC poll in Pennsylvania has Clinton at 45% and Trump at 44%.
- A Portland Press Herald/UNH survey in Maine has Clinton leading Trump in ME-01 and Trump ahead in ME-02.
More than 30 times, in the case of some donors. Long before Cruz endorsed Trump—and before he even snubbed the nominee at the Republican National Convention—"the senator quietly began renting his vast donor email file to his former rival, pocketing at least tens of thousands of dollars, and more likely hundreds of thousands, that can be used to bankroll the Texan’s own political future."
"A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 34% of registered voters think the three presidential debates would be extremely or quite important in helping them decide whom to support for president. About 11% of voters are considered 'debate persuadables'—that is, they think the debates are important and are either third-party voters or only loosely committed to either major-party candidate."
Will he or won't he? That's the question surrounding Donald Trump and his on-again, off-again threats to bring onetime Bill Clinton paramour Gennifer Flowers to the debate as his guest. An assistant to flowers initially said she'd be there, but Trump campaign chief Kellyanne Conway "said on ABC’s 'This Week' that the Trump campaign had not invited Flowers to the debate, but she didn’t rule out the possibility of Flowers being in the audience."