Republican candidate Mitt Romney is hosting GOP strategist Karl Rove at a retreat for his biggest donors in Utah this weekend, raising objections about coordination between Romney’s presidential campaign and two interest groups advised by Rove, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.
Under federal law, candidates aren’t allowed to tell super PACs and other interest groups what to do with their money — a provision designed to limit federal officeholders from the corrupting influence of the million-dollar donations accepted by independent groups.
Romney himself tried to explain these rules during the Republican primary battle as a super PAC run by his former aides hammered his rivals for the GOP nod.
“As you probably know, super PACs have to be entirely separate from a campaign and a candidate,” Romney said on MSNBC. “I’m not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape or form.”
Romney was actually overstating the restrictions in that interview, however, in an attempt to deflect criticism for the PAC ads.
The actual rule on coordination between campaigns and interest groups is quite narrow and permeable through a bevy of loopholes. Romney is allowed to talk to groups working on his behalf and even raise money for them, something he’s done several times. The only thing he’s not allowed to do is talk about the strategy for spending money boosting his candidacy or attacking President Obama.
At the retreat, Rove simply has to avoid listening to any of the talk about campaign strategy to stay in the clear.
“Karl Rove is on a panel with other media personalities,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “We are fully aware of what the law requires and we follow both its letter and its spirit.”
Rove is an unpaid strategic adviser and “key fundraiser” to Crossroads, said Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the group.
The law in this area is so confused that it’s actually possible that Romney could, if he wanted to, direct the current spate of ads run by Crossroads attacking Obama’s policies. Since those spots are nominally focused on issues such as gas prices and federal spending and not on the election itself, they are not considered campaign ads under the law. In December, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked on a request from Crossroads to tape candidates talking about issues in its ads.