In the run-up to the November elections, Republicans appear to have been communicating with super PACs and nonprofits through secret code on Twitter, a coordination that may be illegal under election law, according to a report by CNN.
A number of Twitter accounts, with public profiles, were set up in an apparent attempt to share internal polling data. Postings on the accounts would list a series of numbers that appear to indicate polling data for specific races around the country.
American Crossroads, Karl Rove's super PAC, along with the conservative nonprofit American Action Network, and the National Republican Congressional Committee were following the accounts, but it is unclear how the groups may have known how to decode the information.
CNN reached out to the all three organizations and within minutes the accounts were deleted, according to the network. It's unclear whether there are other accounts currently operating that have still gone undetected.
One account was named after a fictional character in "The West Wing" called Bruno Gianelli, who argued in favor of using soft money to help campaigns.
The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling opened the door to unlimited spending by outside groups to influence elections as long as the groups didn't coordinate with specific campaigns. Sharing of data could be a way to direct an outside group to devote more of its resources on certain races.
"It's a line that has not been defined," Paul Ryan, a senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told CNN. "It might not be legal. It's a cutting edge practice that, to my knowledge, the Federal Election Commission has never before addressed to explicitly determine its legality or permissibility."
Another expert told CNN that the definition of what constitutes "coordination" is open to interpretation.
"It may bend common sense, but not necessarily the law," Daniel Tokaji, professor of Constitutional Law at Ohio State University, told CNN.
"A lot of things you and I would consider coordination are not coordination under the law. I don't think sharing polling data is going to be enough to establish that the campaign was materially involved in decisions about content, target audience, or timing."
The FEC told CNN that it may be investigating the use of social media to share campaign information but that the laws surrounding the issue are "murky" given that the use of social media in politics is so new.
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