FEC rejects complaint that press contributed to Clinton campaign with favorable coverage

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The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) has dismissed a complaint that accused the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign of breaking the law by soliciting favorable media coverage from certain members of the press ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The complaint, filed by Tony Dane of Front Royal, Virginia, was shot down in a unanimous vote of 6-0. Multiple news organizations and journalists – including The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, CNN’s John Harwood (who worked for CNBC in 2016), Politico, The Hill and NBC Universal – were mentioned in Dane’s complaint.

As “evidence of coordination” between Hillary for America and journalists of different news organizations, Dane cited news reports and emails, many of which were obtained in October 2016 when Wikileaks shared a trove of emails from members of Clinton’s campaign.

Of the newspaper reports mentioned, Dane’s specifically highlighted a piece titled, “EXCLUSIVE: New Email Leak Reveals Clinton Campaign’s Cozy Press Relationship” from Intercept reporter Glenn Greenwald. In the complaint, Dane notes that Greenwald’s story is “about the relationship with friendly reporters who the Hillary for America campaign can plant a story with,” adding that Haberman “published two stories on behalf of the Hillary for America campaign.”

According to Dane, Haberman’s stories are “clear coordination with the Hillary for America campaign and it is required to be reported on the Hillary for America campaign’s FEC report.”

Dane also included a piece from The Observer, which, according to Dane, “states how campaign staffers were trained on a legal way to coordinate with super PACs.” Dane also insisted that if Clinton’s campaign was able to find “a loophole, the coordination still needs to be reported on FEC filings.”

Dane also accused The New York Times of allowing “individuals from the Hillary for America campaign to edit quotes, possibly unprecedented for the newspaper,” referring to the Times as a “surrogate for the Hillary for America campaign.”

In concluding his complaint, Dane pleaded with the FEC to “stop these efforts and to demand full disclosure” from Clinton’s campaign ahead of the 2016 election.

Regarding the complaint, Dana Green, a Times legal consultant, wrote to the FEC in 2018 and said, “We believe it is apparent on the face of the Complaint that it is without merit.”

“The exhibits attached to the Complaint do not support Mr. Dane’s assertions and the two articles Ms. Haberman identified in Mr. Dane’s complaint plainly are not coordinated communications or contributions to the Clinton campaign subject to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended,” Green added in her letter sent to Claudio Pavia of the FEC.

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