An email from the Tea Party Express to supporters links a phone call from the Senate candidate to a plea for cash.
The message from Sal Russo, the chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, was breathless. “We just got off the phone with the McDaniel campaign,” Russo wrote in an email to the group’s supporters, “and they need our help!”
The problem: The Tea Party Express is an independent group that is promising to intervene in the Mississippi Republican runoff election between Senate candidate Chris McDaniel and Sen. Thad Cochran. As such, the group is not legally allowed to coordinate strategy with McDaniel, or his campaign.
“That would seem to be pretty clear coordination,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending, of the Russo email.
Under federal election law, outside groups like Russo’s, which is registered as the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, are allowed to spend money unlimitedly to benefit candidates, but with the restriction that they are not allowed to coordinate spending. A phone call between them urging support, “to me, clearly contradicts the rules,” Krumholz said. “I would think this would raise the red flag for enforcement folks at the Federal Election Commission.”