Presidential candidates and the super PACs accepting unlimited donations to help their campaigns cannot coordinate their activity, yet they are sharing consultants, donors and even advertising footage, raising new questions about the independence of outside groups. Campaign-finance experts say there’s little federal regulators can or will do to curb the activity ahead of November’s election.
Some recent examples:
•Restore Our Future, a super PAC backing Republican Mitt Romney, came under fire from a campaign-watchdog group this week for running the same commercial Romney aired in 2007 during his earlier presidential campaign. The super PAC, run by former Romney aides, also shares a direct-mail and polling consultant with the campaign, new federal disclosures show.
•President Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina appeared at a fundraiser Friday for Priorities USA Action, a super PAC created by two former Obama aides. The move comes after Obama reversed his opposition to super PAC activity. Cabinet officials are slated to attend future events in an effort to boost donations to the group, which has lagged behind Republican groups.
•Foster Friess, a wealthy mutual fund manager from Wyoming who has traveled to campaign events with Republican Rick Santorum, also is the single largest donor to the super PAC supporting Santorum’s presidential bid.
“Every super PAC seems to be run by former colleagues and advisers,” said Bill Allison of the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation. “They share pollsters and media buyers. These really are the candidates’ super PACs.”