Earlier this week, the Republican Party was discovered to have used Twitter to inform its fundraising groups of polling numbers during elections, potentially infringing on a rule that bars US political parties from "coordinating" with outside elements. But it appears that the GOP wasn't alone in using Twitter to skirt regulations — according to The Huffington Post, the Democrats also used the micro-blogging service during 2012 elections to provide information on party ad campaigns to groups who weren't technically allowed to receive the data directly.
The information appeared on the @AdBuyDetails Twitter account, with tweets mentioning a range of data, including the candidate for which the ads were purchased, the target age group it was aimed at, and the amount it cost. The information could have been used by nonprofits, political action groups, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's independent expenditure arm, all of whom are not allowed to see private ad data collected by the party's various bodies. But while the anti-coordination rules mean candidates and their supporting staff can't collaborate with outside groups on their ads, strategy, or messages, there's an exception if the information used by such groups is obtained from "a publicly available source."
"Dave Loebsack for Congress/DCCC",IA-2 GEN,10/02,10/08,broadcast,150,A35+,30,WQAD,1600,25.9 #buydetails— Ad Buy Details (@AdBuyDetails) September 27, 2012
The Democrats used the @AdBuyDetails account to detail candidate ad spending
The information tweeted by the @AdBuyDetails account appears cryptic, but unlike the Republicans' polling data profiles, it can be deciphered by checking it against the account's Twitter biography, which explains what each of the terms included in the tweets corresponds to. Both parties skirted the rules by making campaign information public, rather than passing it directly to groups disallowed from receiving it, but by including the decoder needed to understand the information, the Democrats may be able to claim that they followed regulations more closely than the Republicans.
Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer for the nonpartisan watchdog Campaign Finance Center, told The Huffington Post that @AdBuyDetails bio decoder was "critical" to be able to understand the tweets, and said that the party's lawyers could argue that "all of the information was made available on the Twitter feed." That would mean the Democrats' could say the account was truly public, where some behind-the-scenes communication may have taken place between the Republicans and outside groups in order to disseminate the cipher necessary to parse the tweets. Nevertheless, Ryan says "both instances are worth investigation," as the Democrats' public decoder "doesn't mean conversations didn't occur" between the party and outside groups.