Study Reveals US Politicians Use Loophole to Evade Campaign Finance Regulations | US News



A study in the Election Law Journal has revealed a common strategy among politicians that involves exploiting a loophole to bypass laws preventing campaigns from coordinating with outside spending groups. This strategy involves campaigns leaving a directive on their public-facing websites, often enveloped by a red box, that instructs the type of targeted advertising they wish for, and outside spending groups then use these instructions to create advertisements. The study indicates that at least 240 Senate and House candidates used this ‘red-boxing’ strategy in the 2022 elections, and that those who did usually earned significantly more in advertising from independent groups supporting their campaign.

Election Law Journal Study Discloses Politicians’ Exploitation of Campaign Law Loophole

An Election Law Journal study reveals politicians regularly exploit a loophole that lets them bypass laws preventing campaign coordination with outside spending groups. This tactic, used openly, involves campaigns directing external groups via public websites about desired targeted advertising.

Campaigns use a literal red box on their website to draw attention to their advertising needs, which these groups then use to create respective ads. Known as red-boxing, this strategy is widespread and easily detectable.

A typical example of red-boxing can be seen on Democratic candidate Bhavini Patel’s website, where a highlighted statement outlines her campaign narrative against competitor Summer Lee.

Ever since the Citizens United v Federal Election Commission ruling in 2010, unlimited campaign spending by corporations and outside groups has surged. The caveat being, this spending can’t be directly coordinated with the campaign. To circumvent this, at least 240 Senate and House candidates in the 2022 elections used red-boxing, particularly in competitive races, earning significantly more from “independent” groups supporting them.

The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) has not only refrained from prosecuting red-boxing cases but appears to condone the strategy. In response to a complaint against Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign for potentially violating the rule against coordinating with independent groups, FEC commissioners stated that the rule is designed to cover requests to select audiences, not general public statements.

Gabriel Foy-Sutherland, one of the study authors, claims that campaigns using red-boxing are “outsourcing responsibility” to Super Pacs, which are subject to less stringent regulations about money raising and spending. Both Democrats and Republicans used this strategy in the 2022 elections.

According to Foy-Sutherland, candidates sometimes use red-boxing to align with a specific group, while others use it as a call for assistance, especially when facing wealthier incumbents.

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