In their campaign efforts, Super PACs and political candidates often engage professional media agencies or political consulting firms to aid them in production and placement of advertisements on media outlets, planning of advertising efforts, and planning campaign strategy. But an increasing number of Super PACs have taken to hiring the same media agencies and consulting firms as the candidates they support. Through the use of a so-called “common vendor,” Super PACs and their supported candidates can coordinate advertising strategies with each other without triggering the federal limits on spending and fundraising.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the public must recognize the threat that the unregulated use of common vendors poses to our electoral democracy. Because the FEC has adopted regulations that make bringing complaints regarding common vendors nearly impossible, Super PACs and political candidates continue to evade accountability. The FEC should therefore reconsider adopting a rule presuming coordination whenever a Super PAC and a political candidate use a common vendor. By doing so, the FEC can require candidates and their Super PACs to truly ensure and document that no coordination takes place by performing due diligence prior to engagement and documenting their communications with the media agency. In addition, a more detailed firewall provision can serve to prophylactically stop actual coordination from taking place. Addressing the common vendor rule alone will not diminish the ever-increasing amount of funds poured into political campaigns by wealthy donors, but closing off this loophole is essential to an overall campaign regime of full disclosure from political actors.
An Avenue for Corruption: Super PACs and the Common Vendor Loophole,
Nw. J. L. & Soc. Pol'y.