Washington (CNN) — Republicans and outside groups used anonymous Twitter accounts to share internal polling data ahead of the midterm elections, CNN has learned, a practice that raises questions about whether they violated campaign finance laws that prohibit coordination.
The Twitter accounts were hidden in plain sight. The profiles were publicly available but meaningless without knowledge of how to find them and decode the information, according to a source with knowledge of the activities.
The practice is the latest effort in the quest by political operatives to exploit the murky world of campaign finance laws at a time when limits on spending in politics are eroding and regulators are being defanged.
Posting the information on Twitter, which is technically public, could provide a convenient loophole to the law — or could run afoul of it.
Beyond coordination, the social media operation could also raise questions about whether the polling data contained in the tweets constituted a donation to the NRCC that should have been reported. The groups could have violated election rules by not reporting the information in the tweets as a donation.
The tweets captured by screenshots stretched back to July, but the groups have communicated in this manner for four years, the source said. Staffers for each group deleted individual tweets every few months, so only the past few months of data were available when CNN first viewed the Twitter accounts.
Despite the questionable nature of the Twitter communications, experts doubt the FEC will do much to act. Members of the commission have been deadlocked along party lines for years and attorneys for these groups often develop legal arguments before engaging in such practices to avoid acting outside the bounds of the law, Ryan said.
“In many instances, we have very sophisticated political players with really good lawyers who know where the legal lines are and know where to push them to their client’s advantage,” he said.