2012 Election

DelBene Supporter Files Formal Complaint Against Ruderman's Mom's PAC

By Josh Feit July 25, 2012

Ruderman campaign ad "Family" featuring Ruderman's mom is Exhibit A in FEC complaint alleging illegal campaign coordination

A supporter of 1st Congressional District candidate Suzan DelBene, James Baum, filed a formal complaint with the Federal Elections Commission on July 21 alleging that Progress for Washington, an independent expenditure committee that has been blasting DelBene with mailers and TV ads, broke campaign rules by coordinating with the formal campaign of DelBene's opponent, Laura Ruderman.

Independent groups, which can raise unlimited amounts of cash with no caps on individual donors, are not allowed to coordinate with candidate campaigns.

As has been widely reported, Ruderman's mom, Margaret Rothschild, is funding the IE (she has reported contributing $115,000 so far, though the cost of PFW's ad blitz has climbed to more than $200,000 according to FEC records).

And as PubliCola first reported, PFW's mail firm, Gumbinner and Davies, has deep connections to Ruderman; the principal at the firm, Jeff Gumbinner, is also a Ruderman donor.

The complaint doesn't have hard evidence on coordination, but speculates, given that Ruderman's mom played a "starring role" in the Ruderman campaign's own ads and was therefore "actively involved in her daughter's campaign," she was able to knowingly supplement Ruderman's positive message with coordinated attack ads. For example, the complaint points out that the PFW ads and Ruderman's official ads were timed to hit together.

From the complaint:
Ms. Rothschild and Progress for Washington seemed to carefully select topics and targets that Friends of Laura Ruderman [Ruderman's formal campaign] was avoiding. Namely, while Ms. Ruderman's cash-strapped campaign aired a so-called "positive" advertisement, Ms. Rothschild and Progress for Washington worked as the campaign's attack dog against Ms. DelBene.

Generally, such an informed division of labor is not in violation of federal campaign finance law. However, in this case, the exclusive funder of these advertisements is so personally tied to not only the candidate but also the candidate's campaign strategy as to be filming Ms. Ruderman's official campaign advertisements.

Based on the correlation of Ms. Rothschild's public involvement in the campaign, and the timing of these advertisements, Ms. Rothschild obviously possessed material information regarding the campaign's plans and strategy and used that information in a determining the direction of the content of her attack ads.

We have a message in to Ruderman's campaign.
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