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Hillary Clinton back in public eye so she can fight campaign finance disclosures

By Sarah May
|
April 15, 2023

Never one to stay out of the public eye for very long, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is back in the arena to defend the tactics used during her 2016 campaign to coordinate with a super PAC without making key disclosures, as the Daily Wire reports.

Notably, however the position the Clinton camp is taking with regard to that defense stands in stark contrast with the positions typically taken by liberals seeking to limit the role of big money in determining political outcomes.

Reporting failures alleged

According to a lawsuit filed by left-leaning advocacy group the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Clinton's unsuccessful 2016 campaign broke the law when it failed to report what it says are millions of in-kind donations from an aligned political group.

The group referenced in the litigation is Correct the Record, run by a well-known Clinton operative named David Brock, who, according to the Daily Wire, openly admitted the coordination between his organization and Hillary for America, despite the prohibition on such activity in most situations.

According to the CLC, Brock's involvement with the Clinton campaign included an extensive array of assistance that included “paying staff to produce and circulate memos to reporters” and “paying staff to run a '30-person war room' to defend Clinton during hearings before the House Select Committee on Benghazi.'”

An attorney for the Federal Election Commission (FEC) ultimately determined in response to a prior complaint with the agency that Correct the Record amassed and spent roughly $9 million on an array of activities on Clinton's behalf, most of which would not fall under an exemption meant for unpaid internet communications cited by Brock.

Enforcement sought

Once the FEC made the aforementioned assessment of the expenditures made by Brock's group, agency enforcement action was recommended, and Democrat agency appointees appeared to agree.

However, action was subsequently blocked by Republicans, despite the fact that it would have been a major blow to arguments made by the Clinton camp.

Eventually, the CLC filed a federal lawsuit against the FEC alleging its failure to take enforcement actions in keeping with its findings regarding the Clinton campaign's finances.

Complicating matters further, the FEC signaled that it would not defend against the claims in court, a move which prompted the Clinton campaign and Brock's group to file a request to do so in its stead.

Procedural twists and turns

The D.C.-based lower court judge initially opined that the case involved important questions, given that its outcome had the potential to permit coordination between campaigns and super PACs, provided that the work product wound up on the Internet in some form or fashion – a nearly limitless expansion of possible exemptions to the standard rule.

However, that same judge tossed the litigation on a technical finding, determining that the CLC did not have the necessary standing to file suit in the first place.

Following an entreaty to the D.C. Court of Appeals, CLC was deemed to have standing in the controversy after all, with the court stating that “Appellants have established a cognizable informational injury” due to the lack of disclosure on the part of the Clinton campaign of the true degree of coordination with Brock's group.

A motion to dismiss was filed by the Clinton campaign and Correct the Record, but rather than grant that request, the court ordered that it “be referred to the merits panel” for further review.

Irony abounds

That Clinton and Brock are pursuing arguments that run counter to contentions made by Democrats for years regarding campaign finance limitations has set them more in line with Republicans who have battled for fewer restrictions in this realm.

Interestingly, the initial FEC complaint regarding former President Donald Trump's hush money payments to adult entertainer Stormy Daniels was also filed by a former attorney from CLC, the same group pursuing the Clinton campaign for alleged violations.

That there is a consistency in the arguments being leveled against a prominent Democrat as were brought against a top Republican, which is viewed by some as a welcome change of pace, but precisely how Clinton — at least politically — attempts to reconcile a defense strategy so out of step with her party's rhetoric remains to be seen.

With the Democrats' motion to dismiss still pending before a merits panel in the D.C. Court of Appeals, the outcome of this potentially pivotal matter continues to hang in the balance, and the campaign finance world watches and waits.