Newt Gingrich accused Mitt Romney of lying about whether he is coordinating with pro-Romney Super PACs. These PACs have been pummeling Gingrich with negative ads in Iowa, which many believe has let to Gingrich’s big fall in the Iowa polls.
Here is the relevant exchange between Gingrich and CBS’s Norah O’Donnell:
Norah O’Donnell: “You scolded Mitt Romney, his friends who are running this Super PAC that has funded that, and you said of Mitt Romney, ‘Someone who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president. I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?”
O’Donnell: “You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?”
Gingrich: “Well, you seem shocked by it! This is a man whose staff created the PAC, his millionaire friends fund the PAC, he pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC — it’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth.”
I have no inside information on any communications between Mr. Romney and supportive super PACs. But Mr. Romney seems like a very intelligent and cautious person. If he had any communications with the Super PACs, he could be in very serious legal trouble—not to mention that the political fallout from a potential criminal violation of campaign finance laws would be enormous.
And there is absolutely no upside to illegal coordinating. As Mr. Gingrich himself explains, the people running the pro-Romney Super PAC know Mitt Romney well, understand his campaign strategy, and have deep pockets. They can simply follow Romney’s lead—and be much more negative than Romney, leaving the candidate unsullied and his opponents beaten up—without risking any legal liability.
It is irresponsible for Mr. Gingrich to accuse Mr. Romney of lying without a shred of evidence. The crime here is not that Romney is coordinating. It is the system of superPACs which threatens the integrity of our legislative and electoral process.
UPDATE: To be clear, Mr. Gingrich seems to be accusing Mr. Romney of illegal coordination. Romney is allowed to have some contact with donors to the super PAC, etc., without violating the FEC rules (such as they are) on what counts as coordination.