Campaign Legal Center Files FEC Complaint Alleging Illegal Coordination between Ron DeSantis Campaign and Super PAC “Never Back Down”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that Florida Governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, his presidential campaign, and the super PAC “Never Back Down” violated federal campaign finance laws by engaging in an illegal coordination scheme.
The complaint details how DeSantis’s campaign conveyed specific requests or suggestions from DeSantis to Never Back Down regarding its messaging strategy, a textbook example of a type of coordinating “conduct” described in FEC regulations. In particular, recent reporting indicates that DeSantis was frustrated that Never Back Down stopped airing ads attacking Nikki Haley, one of DeSantis’s opponents in the GOP primaries, and that intermediaries conveyed those messaging concerns to Never Back Down’s board members, who relayed the message to staff making strategic decisions for the super PAC.
“When a super PAC like Never Back Down illegally coordinates its election spending with a candidate’s campaign, the super PAC effectively becomes an arm of the campaign,” said Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform at Campaign Legal Center. “That circumvents federal contribution limits and reporting requirements, and gives the super PAC’s special interest backers, including corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals, a concerning level of influence over elected officials and policymaking — undermining voters’ right to a meaningful and equitable role in the democratic process.”
This recent effort at guiding Never Back Down’s messaging was not an isolated event: Over the summer, DeSantis’s campaign also “leaked” a strategic memo that provided guidance about the campaign’s plans and messaging strategies. Moreover, Never Back Down has, virtually since its inception, underwritten and subsidized DeSantis’s campaign, while continuing to accept contributions well in excess of federal contribution limits, as well as corporate money.
Under the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, super PACs and other “independent” spending groups can only raise and spend unlimited money on elections if they do not coordinate with candidates or political parties. Yet illegal coordination has been almost wholly unchecked — even as “independent” election spending has skyrocketed — in the 13 years since Citizens United. The coordination between Never Back Down and the DeSantis campaign represents this growing and deeply problematic trend — documented in detail in a recent CLC report.
Illegal coordination between independent expenditure groups and campaigns undermines our democracy. As the agency responsible for enforcing federal campaign finance laws, the FEC should immediately investigate what appears to be a monthslong, deeply concerning coordination scheme between Never Back Down and the DeSantis presidential campaign.