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Pro-Schwartz ad questioned in CD-3 race

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Does an ad by a Democratic “super PAC” amount to illegal coordination with the campaign of Gail Schwartz in her bid to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District? The question is raised in the Sunday Grand Junction Sentinel by veteran reporter Gary Harmon:

The ad “really violates the spirit (and) there’s a strong argument that it violates the law, as well,” said Brendan Fischer, associate counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.

Schwartz’s campaign said it had done nothing but collect and post campaign material.

The original material had been posted by the campaign to YouTube; it was generic campaign fare that included video of the former state senator from Crested Butte riding a horse and chatting it up with locals. The material was then repackaged by the House Majority PAC into an ad that also criticized Tipton.

A Schwartz campaign spokesman told Harmon the campaign produces and posts, “lots of content about Gail. …We obviously can’t control how people use it.”

But is the reuse of the content permissible under campaign-finance laws?

One test of whether something constitutes coordination is whether the super PAC republishes campaign materials, Fischer said.

“Here they are really pushing the envelope,” Fischer said. “Yes, it’s a YouTube video. Anybody can find them, but you have to know where to look.”

Nevertheless, you have to wonder if an attempt to file a complaint would amount to chasing smoke. Even if there is a theoretical violation, could anyone actually be held accountable?

As Harmon also reports, the federal law “has largely gone unenforced,” and reuse of a campaign’s promotional material is an increasingly common practice by PACs in both parties. Perhaps that’s because they know no one will have to answer for it.

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