“Coordination in Plain Sight: The Breadth and Uses of ‘Redboxing’ in Congressional Elections”

Gabriel Foy-Sutherland and Saurav Ghosh have written this article for ELJ. Here is the abstract:

This article examines the campaign strategy known as “redboxing.” Redboxing refers to efforts by candidates and parties to bypass laws prohibiting them from coordinating campaign advertising with outside spending groups such as super PACs. This coordination takes place in plain sight—on official campaign websites and party “microsites”—with campaigns asking outside groups to fund specific campaign messages that target particular groups of voters on desired media channels. The instructions contained in a redbox typically employ coded or technical language intended to guide the resulting “independent” expenditures, and are often presented in a distinctive, red-bordered text box designed to be easily identifiable by super PAC operatives. Overall, we find that campaigns use redboxing for two purposes: to engage an allied outside group to amplify the campaign’s primary message to voters, or to delegate a given message to an allied group, often a negative or inflammatory attack on a political opponent. Complementing our legal analysis of this practice, we assess the prevalence of redboxing in the American political system, as well as the relationship between redboxing and independent expenditures in congressional races. Drawing on the first comprehensive dataset of redboxes in a single electoral cycle, we find that this strategy is far more widespread than previously understood. Over two hundred candidates for federal office employed redboxing during the 2022 electoral cycle, and these same candidates frequently benefitted from super PAC spending that was hundreds of times greater than candidates who did not redbox. We conclude by providing recommendations for legal reforms to bring redboxing under control, highlighting recent reform initiatives adopted in Philadelphia and Allegheny County, PA, to outline a workable rule that prohibits redboxing while not infringing on genuine, vital political speech.

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