Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress and policy director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, is arguably Clinton’s most fervent supporter. In one of the hacked emails to and from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta published by WikiLeaks, Tanden emphasized that “I would do whatever Hillary needs always.”
But as a recently released email chain shows, even Tanden was concerned in May last year that plans of a pro-Clinton Super PAC to directly coordinate with the campaign were “shady” and “skirting if not violating [the] law.”
That Super PAC’s coordination with the Clinton campaign has since become the subject of a complaint to the Federal Election Commission from the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C., watchdog organization.
The 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court allowed corporations, unions, and individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect politicians — but only if they did so independently from politicians’ actual campaign.
The email chain, dated May 13, 2015, begins with Judd Legum, editor of CAP’s Think Progress blog, sending Tanden a Washington Post article about the scheme hatched by Correct the Record.
Correct the Record is run by Democratic operative David Brock, and has raised almost $10 million this cycle to “defend Hillary Clinton from baseless attacks.”
The Post article described how Correct the Record planned to make use of 2006 Federal Election Commission regulations aimed at making sure uncompensated bloggers were free to coordinate with campaigns. According to Correct the Record, this would somehow allow their paid staff to work directly with the Clinton campaign.
Legum wrote to Tanden, “This makes zero sense to me.”
Tanden then forwarded Legum’s article to Podesta, adding her own comment: “this does seem shady.”
Podesta replied enigmatically, “Brock $ machine!”
Tanden responded, “That’s fine. But skirting if not violating law doesn’t help her INMHO.”
Correct the Record has reportedly given Clinton surrogates media training and hired consultants to book their television appearances; deployed trackers to follow Clinton’s primary opponents; conducted opposition research; and much, much more.
After reading the email exchange, Lawrence Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, commented: “We not only agree it is shady, we think Correct the Record coordinating with the campaign is illegal, which is why we have filed a complaint.”
U.S. intelligence officials have stated that they are confident the Podesta emails were hacked by Russia, with the involvement of high-level Russian officials.
Update: November 1, 2016
This article has been updated to include language from a more recently published version of the relevant email chain.