From American Briefing:
A new political organization, Ready for Ron, founded by long-time Republican strategist Ed Rollins is looking to give Florida Governor Ron DeSantis an early boost for the 2024 Presidential election.
What Is Happening: The Ready for Ron group is looking to collect the names and contact information of over 1,000,000 people so they can hand it over to the DeSantis campaign at no cost come election time.
What Is The Plan: Ready for Ron plans to launch a litany of TV ads, billboards, and digital ads that will encourage DeSantis to run for the White House in 2024. In addition, these advertisements will be asking those who support DeSantis to sign a petition asking him to run for the White House. The organization has plans for other methods of advertising as well, including skywriting and blimps.
The organization plans to bring in names, zip codes, email addresses, and phone numbers for nearly 60,000 people by the end of June and well over 1,000,000 people by the end of 2022.
The organization has announced that if Ron DeSantis does not run for President, they will hand over the data they collect to the 2024 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.
Is This Legal: Campaign finance experts have already said that this tactic is legally dubious and will “test the waters” with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Ed Rollins and his team have already delivered their plans to the FEC to get an official ruling on this tactic.
Generally speaking, this strategy is not all that out there. Plenty of organizations will collect data on behalf of candidates to help bolster said candidate’s campaign. The FEC has required that these groups charge fair market value for the data or report it as an in-kind campaign contribution.
In Ready for Ron’s FEC petition, they laid out the case that they should be allowed to hand over the names for free without having to report it as an in-kind campaign contribution. In addition, the organization claims they are acting as a conduit for each individual who signs their petition; therefore, they should be able to skirt the previously mentioned requirements.
Ready for Ron’s petition to the FEC shows that they are likely to only move forward with approval and are not looking to pick up a massive legal battle over this effort.
Previous FEC Rulings: Brett Kappel, a campaign finance attorney, came out in an interview with Axios and said that it is not likely that the FEC will go for this.
“I don’t see how you could get three [FEC] votes for this advisory opinion — at least as it applies to a possible DeSantis campaign once it begins the testing the waters stage,” Brett Kappel said. He continued, “the FEC has repeatedly held that a mailing list is a ‘thing of value’ under [the Federal Election Campaign Act] and therefore subject to the contribution limits for in-kind contributions.”
Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told Axios that these campaign finance rules apply even before a candidate officially declares that they are running. “Federal campaign finance law has long required that funds raised or spent to explore a potential run for federal office must comply with federal rules,” he said.
An attorney for Ready at Ron, Lilian Rodriquez-Baz, told Axios, “Ultimately, it’s our position that the FECA doesn’t trump the Constitution.”
How Valuable Would This List Be: Starting a presidential campaign with a list of supporters who have already been primed to donate to your campaign can be incredibly valuable. For example, suppose Ready for Ron can go through with this plan, and they successfully hand over the list to the DeSantis campaign. In that case, DeSantis will have a massive advantage over all other candidates in the 2024 presidential election.