Joe Birkenstock and David Mitrani discussed a recent charge of coordination between a party committee and outside groups with Talking Points Memo, and with the Wall Street Journal. These groups allegedly used twitter accounts to share polling data.
“Joseph M. Birkenstock, a lawyer for Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock P.C. who previously served as the chief counsel for the Democratic National Committee, said couldn’t quite say that the tweets were “clearly illegal” but added “no way would I advise a client to distribute polling information this way, or use polling info they got this way.”
“The FEC has established protections around information obtained from a “publicly available source,” but judging by the character-salad tweets I’ve seen, *the information* actually conveyed in those tweets really isn’t public,” Birkenstock told TPM via email. What’s missing is the “decoder ring” used to decipher the gibberish cluster of numbers, Birkenstock said.
“So in other words, unless the decoder ring is publicly available too, I’m not at all convinced the tweets I’ve seen would count as a ‘publicly available source’ even if you put them on a billboard in Times Square,” Birkenstock continued.
Birkenstock’s response was similar to the other election law experts reached by TPM on the story. They all said that what’s missing was a clear sign that there was coordination around these Twitter accounts.
. . .”I’m not sure ‘public’ has to mean ‘completely free of pre-arrangement,’ but I think it definitely needs to mean ‘actually available to the public,’ as opposed to some subset of the public that happens to know how to read the private Dothraki dialect you and your allies came up with over beers one night,” Birkenstock added.”
The Talking Points Memo article can be found here.
“David Mitrani, a Democratic campaign-finance lawyer, said he expects several complaints to be filed. “This arrangement is incredibly risky,” he said. “It really pushes the boundaries of the law, and it violates the spirit of the law.”
The Wall Street Journal article may be found here.