Citing “lessons learned from online engagement with ‘Bernie Bros,’” a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC is pledging to spend $1 million to “push back against” users on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Instagram.
Correct the Record’s “Barrier Breakers” project boasts in a press release that it has already “addressed more than 5,000 people that have personally attacked Hillary Clinton on Twitter.” The PAC released this on Thursday.
The PAC was created in May of last year when it was spun off from the American Bridge SuperPAC, which is run by longtime Hillary and Bill Clinton supporter David Brock. Brock also founded the left-wing media watchdog website Media Matters for America.
Some Bernie Sanders-supporting users on Reddit already started to notice the changes on Thursday afternoon.
“This explains why my inbox turned to cancer on Tuesday,” wrote user OKarizee. “Been a member of reddit for almost 4 years and never experienced anything like it. In fact, in all my years on the internet I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Correct the Record, which has received $5 million this campaign season and has spent almost $4.5 million of it, according to OpenSecrets.org, outlined its strategy against “swarms of anonymous attackers” in a press release.
“While Hillary Clinton fights to break down barriers and bring America together, the Barrier Breakers 2016 digital task force will serve as a resource for supporters looking for positive content and push-back to share with their online progressive communities, as well as thanking prominent supporters and committed superdelegates on social media,” the statement read.
Due to FEC loopholes, the Sunlight Foundation’s Libby Watson found this year that Correct the Record can openly coordinate with Clinton’s campaign, despite rules that typically disallow political campaigns from working directly with PACs.
“SuperPACs aren’t supposed to coordinate with candidates. The whole reasoning behind (Supreme Court decision) Citizens United rests on (PACs) being independent, but Correct the Record claims it can coordinate,” Watson told The Daily Beast. “It’s not totally clear what their reasoning is, but it seems to be that material posted on the Internet for free—like, blogs—doesn’t count as an ‘independent expenditure.’”
Watson previously worked at Brock’s Media Matters for America, where “their whole mission is to debunk conservative misinformation [and] a lot of that ends up being defending Hillary Clinton,” but says she’s never seen anything like this initiative.
“Usually places like MMFA and CTR are defending her against the media and established figures. This seems to be going after essentially random individuals online,” she said. “I don’t know that they’ve done anything like this before.”
Campaign Legal Center lawyer Paul Ryan (who bears no relation to the Speaker of the House) told Time magazine in September of last year that Correct The Record is “creating new ways to undermine campaign regulation.” Watson used Ryan’s complaint in the Sunlight Foundation’s report about the most influential organizations working behind the scenes for the Clinton camp.
“Campaign finance lawyers are not that impressed with [CTR’s] logic, but they can get away with it because the [Federal Election Commission] is deadlocked and does nothing,” she said.
“Barrier Breakers 2016 is focused on pushing out positive content to Hillary supporters online to counter negative attacks and false narratives,” Correct the Record’s communications director, Elizabeth Shappell, told The Daily Beast. “The expanded task force was established in anticipation of the general election.”