After Cryin’ Charlie Copeland filed his laughable complaint against the Stephanie Hansen campaign and First State Strong PAC, alleging without any evidence whatsoever that they were improperly colluding, the Delaware AFL-CIO union filed a similar complaint claiming that Greg Lavelle’s First State First PAC was colluding with the John Marino campaign.
Jim Maravelias, president of the Delaware AFL-CIO union, claimed that FirstStateFirst broke those rules. He pointed out that the PAC’s treasurer, state Sen. Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, also works closely with the campaign, soliciting donations for both the PAC and Marino at his home address. Lavelle never denied coordinating FirstStateFirst with the Marino campaign, but argued the ads his PAC created did not constitute “express advocacy,” so he was not breaking any rules.
Earlier this month, Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove denied Copeland’s complaint because while their was express advocacy by the PAC, there was no evidence of improper coordination. This time, Manlove finds the opposite, that there was coordination, but not express advocacy. Which I find curious. Unless “express advocacy” boils down to the same “magic words” jurisprudence on the federal level as a result of the Supreme Court’s Buckley v. Valeo ruling. Under the Buckley ruling, speakers that did not invoke any of the eight specific words and phrases of Buckley, or similar language expressly calling voters to vote for or against a candidate, were exempt from campaign finance laws. The eight words and phrases appearing in Buckley were “vote for,” “elect,” “support”, “cast your ballot for”, “Smith for Congress”, “vote against”, “defeat”, “reject”, or any variations thereof.
“The materials produced by the FirstStateFirst PAC do not expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a given candidate,” Manlove wrote in her response. “Rather, the materials address a variety of issues, which may or may not be important to voters.”
Now, I personally don’t care. The AFL-CIO complaint was bullshit just as Copeland’s complaint was bullshit. Why? Because we really don’t have any meaningful campaign finance laws anymore, not since the Citizens United decision. Until you reverse that, anything and everything goes.
What I want to see end is the hypocritical complaining about campaign finance from Republicans. If Lavelle is so upset, he should introduce a bill this very instant to address it. He has not.
I do think that having all of the money going to the same place — for the PAC and campaign — would count for advocacy and coordination. I mean, if money is speech and you are directing that bit of advocacy, then it should count.
Still — the two part test for this seems as though it was specifically meant to provide some wiggle room for both parties on this PAC business. Too bad neither one of them will fix it.