In 2012, the Democratic Party shared information about advertising buys through a seemingly unconnected Twitter account called AdBuyDetails. This account, which posted tweets from Aug. 31 until Oct. 23, 2012, sent out data on ad buys made by Democratic House candidates in tight races across the country. The purpose of the account, according to a source with knowledge of its creation, was to make that information public and thereby get around restrictions on information access built into an internal app used by top Democratic Party officials to share crucial campaign data.
During this year's midterm elections, some Republicans came up with a creative trick to get around election laws. As Chris Moody uncovered, GOP operatives posted polling data to dummy Twitter accounts as a way of using social media as a sort of dead drop -- allies could receive the lucrative data without literally coordinating with Republican campaigns.
Paul Blumenthal reported yesterday, however, that these kinds of tactics weren't limited to Republicans.
In fairness to Dems, the 2012 tactic isn't exactly the same thing as what Republicans did this year, but the intended purpose of the tweets was obviously quite similar.
On Oct. 23, 2012, for example, those who followed AdBuyDetails saw this tweet: "Bill Enyart for Congress/DCCC",IL-12 GEN,10/23,10/29,broadcast,281,A35+,30,KTVI,23800,101.9 #buydetails."
It's not gibberish for those who knew how to read it: this was information about advertising in a congressional race in Illinois. If you were with a like-minded group, and you were weighing an investment in this same race, the ad-buy info would have been useful.
The key difference, though, aside from the fact that the Dems' tweets were two years ago, is that the data itself wasn't secret. Republicans were publishing tweets with private polling data, which cost a lot of money. Information on ad buys, however, is public. Democrats were making it easy to keep track of the figures, but they weren't passing along secrets to allies.
What's more, while the Republican tweets required a secret cypher to understand, Blumenthal's report noted that the Twitter bio for AdBuyDetails contained the decoder key to interpret the tweets it sent out. It read, "Buyer,Race,Start date,End date,[broadcast | cable | radio],marketcode(see table: http://goo.gl/txRY8),Target group,Spot length,Station,Dollars,TRPs#buydetails."
So, if we're grading on a scale, the Democratic scheme was arguably less offensive, at least as a matter of degree.
Still, the broader point is that Dems hoped to circumvent restrictions on campaign coordination, just as Republicans were doing. Perhaps the Federal Election Commission can weigh in on this one of these days?