from the xkcd-becomes-real-life dept
We’ve seen a lot of silliness this political season, most of which I happily lay the blame for at the feet of what has to be the lamest group of candidates for President this esteemed country has ever seen. What these good-for-nothings have bred is a deeper level of hateful rhetoric and toxic partisanship than what was present already, which I didn’t even think was possible. Yet they achieved it anyway, meaning that my social media feeds are overflowing with the kind of know-nothing memes and claims about all of the candidates that have me thinking about downing a bottle of rat poison just to make my brain stop hurting. Add to all of it the involvement of SuperPACs for all of these candidates, with their un-subtle messages and self-serving advertising, and it’s enough to wonder if we should scrap this whole America thing and try to start something new from scratch.
Well, those two worlds are apparently colliding as we speak, with information about the new strategy being taken by one pro-Clinton SuperPAC coming to light.
Citing “lessons learned from online engagement with ‘Bernie Bros,’” a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC is pledging to spend $1 million to “push back against” users on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Instagram. Correct the Record’s “Barrier Breakers” project boasts in a press release that it has already “addressed more than 5,000 people that have personally attacked Hillary Clinton on Twitter.” The PAC released this on Thursday.
I’ll get the obligatory XKCD out of the way, because there was simply no way not to include this comic in this post.
So, yeah, this Hillary PAC is spending a million dollars to apparently argue with people on social media, which is the kind of thing some of us do for free every day, because we’re obsessive jack-wagons unable to let anyone anywhere say something stupid and think they got away with it. But I know that I’m almost certainly wasting my time, whereas this superPAC is boasting about all of this.
But why is it a time-waster? Well, because the kind of people saying the kinds of messages about Hillary Clinton that this campaign is likely to try to rebut aren’t going to be swayed by paid web-trollers and their arguments, factual or otherwise.
“This explains why my inbox turned to cancer on Tuesday,” wrote user OKarizee. “Been a member of reddit for almost 4 years and never experienced anything like it. In fact, in all my years on the internet I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
So the targeted rebuttal is deemed to be “cancer.” Victory?
More interesting is that the PAC in question, Correct the Record, claims it is coordinating directly with the Clinton campaign in doing all of this. And it claims that this is all perfectly legal, despite the infamous Citizens United ruling resting on the claim that PACs are private interests and do not coordinate with the campaigns of politicians. What logic is Correct the Record relying on in claiming that its coordinating is legal? Well, these rebuttals aren’t paid spots, so campaign finance rules don’t apply.
Due to FEC loopholes, the Sunlight Foundation’s Libby Watson found this year that Correct the Record can openly coordinate with Clinton’s campaign, despite rules that typically disallow political campaigns from working directly with PACs.
“SuperPACs aren’t supposed to coordinate with candidates. The whole reasoning behind (Supreme Court decision) Citizens United rests on (PACs) being independent, but Correct the Record claims it can coordinate,” Watson told The Daily Beast. “It’s not totally clear what their reasoning is, but it seems to be that material posted on the Internet for free—like, blogs—doesn’t count as an ‘independent expenditure.’ Usually places like MMFA and CTR are defending her against the media and established figures. This seems to be going after essentially random individuals online,” she said. “I don’t know that they’ve done anything like this before.”
It’s an interesting argument by the PAC, but one that reportedly is raising eyebrows among lawyers involved in campaign finance law. Some are claiming that this tactic is a cynical undermining of the spirit of campaign finance laws, using a loophole to get around the laws’ original purpose. There are also claims floating around that the Federal Election Commission should do something about this, but isn’t over a lack of understanding of whether any of this is legal.
Which ultimately may not matter all that much because, as I noted above, I just can’t see how this is a productive use of this PACs time and resources. I argue with people online all the time, because I’m an idiot, and rarely do those arguments end with minds changed. And those arguments are often on topics far less divisive than American politics. Why should this PAC think any of this will turn out any better for them?