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Hmm, This Dark Money Organization Seems To Exist Just To Help Marco Rubio

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 8/10/2015 Jason Linkins
ATHENA IMAGE © Spencer Platt via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

For a long time, I've been pointing out that the rumors of a "firewall" between the activities of political candidates and the activities of the dark money nonprofits that support those candidates have been somewhat exaggerated, much like the rumors of flying reindeer or sasquatches. Clearly, campaigns and these semi-secretive organizations do the one big thing they are not ever supposed to do, according to what we'll very loosely call "campaign finance law": coordinate with one another.

In fact, the inefficacy of any oversight agency to prevent -- and unwillingness to even notice -- abuse and corruption is the buried lead of almost every story about dark money, except for the ones I write because I put it in a rather pointed second paragraph to draw attention to it.

Many other news organizations, of course, stare with some degree of naive, starry-eyed wonder on these new arrangements. The latest is The Associated Press, which on Thursday reported on presidential aspirant and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and the way he is "benefiting in unprecedented ways" from an arrangement with a "nonprofit group funded by anonymous donors" called the Conservative Solutions Project.

It's really a neat relationship in which Rubio and this organization find themselves. Very symbiotic, indeed. According to the AP, the organization is responsible for every "pro-Rubio television commercial so far in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina," as well as a Rubio-centric direct-mail campaign in those states. It goes on to note that the nonprofit, which by law is "barred from making political activity their primary purpose," has nevertheless -- and surely, purely by coincidence -- ended up repeatedly coming through in the clutch for Marco Rubio:

Rubio is legally prohibited from directing the group's spending, and he has said he has nothing to do with it. But there's little doubt that Conservative Solutions Project is picking up the tab for critical expenses that the campaign itself might struggle to afford.

And the coincidences hardly end there. In fact, here is the most hilarious one:

Although [the Conservative Solutions Project] shares a name and key personnel with the Rubio-focused super PAC, Conservative Solutions PAC, its mutual spokesman, Jeff Sadosky, said the two are "very separate and distinct groups."

Oh, sure. These two groups? My, my, they couldn't be more different! Take it from the guy who serves as the spokesman for both groups, because he'd obviously know better than anybody!

Back in April, in the course of reporting on the way former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's presidential campaign was planning on handing the bulk of its "central functions" to its Right To Rise super PAC, the AP described this arrangement as one that gave a "makeover" to the "traditional campaign," while expressing a general wonderment about it, because of course campaigns can't coordinate with these organizations, so wow ... how is this supposed to work?

The media tends to depict this new wilderness of unaccountable money funding unaccountable campaign activity as one in which the candidates are innovating, or taking bold chances, in the face of the non-coordination restrictions, as if these restrictions were an actual thing that mattered to anyone. It's taking them awhile to catch up to the reality that they don't matter, and the only "innovation" is the candidates' simple acknowledgement that there's no agency capable of holding them accountable for violating these laws, and so there are no consequences for flouting them. 

What follows from there should be no surprise to anyone. If it seems like it's going to be hard for a candidate's super PAC to perform the activities they are performing without coordinating with the campaign, the obvious answer is that this coordination is happening.

The AP eventually gets around to winkingly acknowledging there are an awful lot of coincidental similarities between the aims of these Rubio-focused organizations and the interests of the Rubio campaign. But no amount of shade-throwing will make up for the fact that the sentence that describes "the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service" as being "less than aggressive in pursuing potential violators" of campaign finance law comes 12 paragraphs below the sentence where the reporter just takes Rubio's word for it when he says "he has nothing to do with" the nonprofit that has his back in the early primary states. This corrupt system depends on that sort of timidity to function the way it does.

So, hey, just to remind you: Your 2016 candidates disregard the law and coordinate with these campaign finance organizations all the time, despite what they tell you. And Marco Rubio is no different.

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