MS-SEN: DSCC violates coordination laws to help Ronnie Musgrove

Last week, Talking Points Memo caught the DSCC at-best skirting campaign finance laws in Oregon. Even TPM doesn't buy DSCC spin.

This week, they are at it again, but it is Mississippi. This ad is running (sorry for the poor quality. This guy videotaped his television)

As you can see, the ad ends with a DSCC bug, but has the "likeness" of Ronnie Musgrove.  Roger Wicker's campaign documents that this is not stock footage, but actually shot last week with DSCC and Musgrove staff:

The ad featuring Ronnie Musgrove was filmed on Wednesday, July 9, at the Madison County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA) and on the Canton square, according to MCEDA officials. [...]

On July 9 Ronnie Musgrove and the Democrat Senatorial Committee coordinated a film shoot on the Canton Square and in the offices of the Madison County Economic Development Authority, less than a week before the ad began running. Contact info for MCEDA:

Wicker's campaign notes that the total of the buy plus previous expenditures surpasses the legal limit for coordinated activity:

The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) requires coordination between a campaign and a National Committee like the DSCC not to exceed $180,800. The DSCC ad on behalf of Ronnie Musgrove is valued at an estimated $240,214 (not counting production costs, view coordinated expenditures.)  This ad combined with previous coordinated expenditures with the DSCC ($55,133 in first quarter) surpasses the legal limits by $114,547.

This is just crime. The DSCC is knowingly (and now systematically, based on the Oregon example) violating campaign finance laws.

Who is next? North Carolina? Alaska? Is this what a Democratic Congress would bring?

Let's not find out. Help Roger Wicker.

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who are the real criminals?


Now this is funny---the White House invoked executive privilege to stop an investigation on the CIA leak problem of the top people in the Bush administration.   This is no longer a democracy when the king can nullify any investigation of it’s own wrongdoing and dismiss the other branches of government. The real blame is the congress, it has no backbone! 
I hope you will be as supportive to the democrats as much as you have been for the republicans when it comes to the trampling of the constitution.  It is funny how your view of the constitutions changes when your party is not in charge of the executive branch---you may be looking at things in a whole different light if Obama get elected—lol.


off topic

This has nothing to do with the post...

You are right

The Constitution has been kicked to the curb by the republicans for so long now that it has nothing to do with anything.  My point; what good are the small laws when the most important ones of all have been trampled into the dirt and pissed on!!!!

Barely Legal

Although I agree that these ads are not in the spirit of current campaign finance law, I think it is far from clear that the DSCC violated campaign finance law.

To be a coordinated expenditure the ad must meet all three parts of the FECs coordinated expenditure test: payment, content, and conduct. (see It is clear that this ad (and the Oregon ad) meet the payment and conduct prong, but the content prong isn't quite as clear.

Basically, whether this ad meets the content prong hangs on whether the ad can be considered "express advocacy" as defined by the FEC (that being the only point of the FECs four part content test  that could possibly apply).

The FEC defines express advocacy as "[including] a message that unmistakably urges the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate." While it seems obvious that this is the case with both the Oregon ad and this more recent ad, The SCOTUS decision in FEC v. WRTL from 2007 makes the issue a lot muddier (Thanks Roberts!).

In the majority opinion, Roberts wrote that "[a] court should find that an ad is the functional equivalent of express advocacy only if the ad is susceptible of no other reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate." (emphasis added).

While it could be argued that there is no other reasonable interpretation, the SCOTUS opinion also said that disagreements should go in favor of free speech, and that the intent of the opinion is to avoid neverending appeals that could not be decided in a consistent way. They also define"reasonable interpretation" in the most broad way possible, to the point of being ridiculous. Even though ridiculous, it is the current interpretation.

As I mentioned to start, these ads are in violation of the spirit of the FEC ruling, but they are definitely on the legal side of what the FEC and SCOTUS are allowing. Perhaps the DSCC intend to raise another lawsuit and have a decision made to more narrowly define the issue, but I don't see that happening in time for it to make any difference in this cycle.


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