Five years ago, when the NRCC ran its biggest-ever independent expenditure advertising campaign, which totaled $80 million, Carl Forti managed it. This year, Forti is running American Crossroads.
The two massive air campaigns in the New York special were complemented by a $97,000 direct mail campaign boosting Corwin and opposing her rivals from American Action Network, a group that does not have to report its donors to the FEC. Since last month, the group, which is affiliated with American Crossroads, has been run by Brian Walsh, who served as the NRCC’s political director during last year’s election.
And there are plenty of ways for smart operatives to closely coordinate without triggering the rules.
For example, in the months before the 2010 midterm election, the NRCC took the extraordinary step of publicly releasing its advertising plans in targeted districts, allowing a coterie of big-money independent conservative groups – including American Action Network, American Crossroads and its sister-group Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies – to coordinate their own independent expenditure advertisements to complement the NRCC’s ads.
Meanwhile, both Jim Bopp, a top GOP campaign lawyer, who has worked to overturncampaign rules, and Ali Lapp’s group are separately urging the FEC to allow independent groups to coordinate their fundraising with candidates and parties.
However aggressive the FEC’s enforcement effort, it’s not much of a real-time deterrent to those who would tempt the coordination rules, because complaints take a long time to resolve. The FEC has yet to act on a pair of coordination complaints filed by Democrats against American Crossroads last year, or a conservative group’s complaint that Democratic Reps. Nancy Pelosi of California and John Larson of Connecticut urged outside groups to spend money to elect their candidates.