The direct order Newt Gingrich gave to a pro-Gingrich super PAC to alter its anti-Mitt Romney ads raises an immediate question: Isn't it illegal for candidates to coordinate with their super PACs?
The short answer: Yes, but it depends on how the candidate communicates those orders. In Newt's case, he did nothing illegal today because his directive in front of a crowd of supporters at his Orlando campaign headquarters was in public. "They should not run the film if it has errors in it," Gingrich said. "I think we should have somebody who wants to be president ought to have the courage to stand up for the truth, and ought to be prepared to say if something is false."
Brett Kappel, counsel for the Washington, D.C. law and lobbying firm Arent Fox tells us location matters. "The FEC would not consider that coordinating," Kappel said. "You can make public statements to say 'take these ads down.'" According to federal election law, the standard for coordinating with a super PAC isn't fulfilled if the communication is obtained from a "publicly available source." In other words, Newt would have to e-mail or telephone the super PAC to be in violation of any laws.
This little fun fact of election law reveals the deceptive cop-out that was Mitt Romney's claim in December that he couldn't urge the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future to take down anti-Gingrich ads because he would "go to the big house." “I’m not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape or form,” he said on MSNBC.
"No, Romney wouldn't go to the big house," said Kappel. "Not as long as he said it in public."