Opposition research is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, and it’s one of the major services that the campaign committees provide to a candidate. In an effort to avoid the duplication of resources and to keep the party on message, the committees are sharing more and more of the information online.
Because the research is public, it isn’t considered coordination and all four Senate and House campaign committees have used a network of websites to communicate messages in the past and will likely do so again.
The websites might seem innocuous, but they are actively read by party strategists on both sides of the aisle and staffers in each committee are assigned to comb the sites each day for new information. “There is nothing illegal about it,” according to one GOP insider, who added that both sides use the tactic.
Up to this point this cycle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has the most information online. Anyone can find it.
Here is how: From the group’s main page, go to “2012 races,” click on a state and click on a district that features a Republican candidate’s name. In many cases, you’ll find downloadable clipbooks, research books, links to raw video footage, and sometimes bulleted talking points. For example, anyone can access the 85-page research book on Arizona Republican Jesse Kelly or the 135-page file on California candidate Abel Maldonado (R).
Similarly, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has research attainable through a handful of clicks. From the committee’s home page, click on the Races tab, then “Read More” about a particular state, then “See what Republicans are doing in Ohio” (for example) and you’ll find a multipage PDF file with quotes and clips.
Republicans tend to use a slightly different tactic.
Last cycle, the National Republican Congressional Committee used a series of microsites that others call orphan sites because they were not directly linked to the group’s main site. Still, it is somewhat easy to find the information because the candidate’s name is used in the microsite.
This cycle the sites launched by Republicans include BarrowObama.com and TheHorsfordRules.com, referring to Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Nevada Democratic candidate Steven Horsford, respectively. Democrats believe that there are other sites either up or coming.
Last cycle, the National Republican Senatorial Committee had a series of sites that could be found by inserting a state as a subdomain — for example, kentucky.nrsc.org. The NRSC isn’t using a similar pattern this time or has not yet launched the same types of research sites.
This sharing of information can also help keep super PACs and the campaign committees on the same page. This week, Democratic aligned House Majority PAC aired a new television ad against Kelly in Arizona using footage from a campaign speech he gave in August 2010. That was seven months before the PAC came into existence, but the raw footage was available through a link from the DCCC’s site to a YouTube channel that features more than 300 video clips.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.