The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Candidates and super PACs can’t coordinate. Here’s their silent workaround.

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Deep in Alex Leary's thorough look last week at the Florida special election in the Tampa Bay Times is a gem about how campaigns and outside groups can communicate without, well, communicating:

Tucked away on Sink's YouTube page is professionally shot video showing her talking with people at a café, walking with a man on the sidewalk and sitting with a young mother at a playground. There's no sound. It's "B-roll," in the parlance of video production, up for grabs for friendly outside groups that may need material for their ads.

Below is the video from Democratic nominee Alex Sink that Leary is talking about. It's not the first time -- and it won't be the last -- that a campaign has posted b-roll online. At a time in which super PACs and nonprofits play a huge role in elections but are barred from coordinating with candidates, this is one way for them to communicate silently, so to speak.

The idea is that outside groups looking for b-roll of candidates they are interested in running ads about can easily find it in the YouTube clips. In 2012, I wrote a piece on how Richard Mourdock did the same thing in the Indiana Senate race. Here was Mourdock's footage:

Earlier this year, Nathan L. Gonzales wrote a Roll Call piece in which he highlighted similar videos from Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). Gonzales also highlighted an NRCC Web site with opposition research anyone can grab -- another common campaign tactic.

Homer Simpson may have summed it up best when he once started chomping at the air and declared, "All right, pie. I'm going to do this, and if you get eaten, it's your own fault."

The thing is, the majority of outside group ads are attack ads as opposed to positive commercials. (Just look at the outside spending breakdown in the Florida special election for evidence.) So groups are probably not using the clips all that often.

Still, it's one of the many examples of creative ways political strategists have found to do all they can within the limits of the law to help the outside groups that in turn will help them.