Recent campaign ads have been sent by mail to voters in several states attacking Republican candidates. But these ads fail to disclose the group behind them.
Why is this potentially illegal?
These direct mail pieces don't include any mention of who is funding them or sending them out. The Daily Beast reports that these mailers may skirt the rules regulating this type of disclosure by not directly saying to vote either for or against a candidate.
However, if it turns out that the mailers, even with this careful wording, were sent out by a registered political committee, that loophole goes away.
But because the mailers are anonymous, it can be difficult or impossible for the Federal Election Commission to track down the culprits. In 2010, the FEC received a complaint involving similar mailers, but could never determine who was behind the ads.
Who did the mailers attack?
The mailers were sent to Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale in Montana, and Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley in Missouri. Both pieces bash the Republican candidates, then promote the Libertarian candidates in those races.
In Rosendale's case, however, Libertarian Rick Breckenridge dropped out of the running and supported the Republican candidate on Wednesday.
In a memo, Rosendale identified the source of the mailers as Allied Printing Resources in Edison, New Jersey. Allied Printing Resources, Rosendale said, serves progressive clients including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, the League of Conservation Voters, and Emily's List.
One of the postcards warns: “If Matt Rosendale gets his way, Montanans will have government drones and patrols hovering outside our windows, keeping an eye on our private lives.”
In his memo, Rosendale criticizes the mailers just not for being “patently illegal” but for being “clearly false.” He pointed out that he had sponsored legislation to limit the use of drones by law enforcement.
According to the Daily Beast, someone using the same U.S. Postal Service Code (WC MLG 08899) was responsible for mailers without funding disclosure that were sent bashing former-Sen.Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) in 2016. That year campaign literature was also sent out in favor of Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
In 2010, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) was targeted. In each instance where the ads attacked a Republican, the Libertarian candidate was endorsed, presumably in an attempt to split the conservative vote.
However, the Daily Beast also noted that postal codes only tell part of the story. The same anonymous group could have sent out mailers from other postal codes.
This is just the lastest example of anonymously funding for Democratic campaigns in a year where 60.9 percent of all funding for Democratic Senate campaigns came from anonymous “dark money” sources.