Thursday, September 8, 2016

This is the fourth blog post in our Politics in Pop Culture series, where we’ll critique Hollywood’s take on politics and campaign finance. Have a tip, question, or suggestion for a future post? Let us know @GoberGroup

In celebration of #throwbackthursday and the new season of television, we’re revisiting season six of The Good Wife, which focused on Alicia Florrick’s run for Chicago State’s Attorney. While Alicia and her husband, Governor Peter Florrick, are no strangers to electoral misdeeds, her campaign was surprisingly compliant with campaign finance rules. In fact, the show reminded us dozens of times that the campaign couldn’t coordinate with the PAC supporting her.

A major plot point in the story is Alicia’s decision to deny knowledge of the fact that drug dealer Lemond Bishop was funding the Super PAC supporting her election. She claims that she doesn’t know who is funding the PAC because that would be illegal coordination.

The show misses the seemingly obvious point that all contributions to Super PACs are publicly disclosed. So not only is it NOT illegal to know who is contributing to a Super PAC, but knowing who is contributing to a Super PAC is supposed to be public information. In fact, every smart candidate should be paying close attention to campaign finance reports and who is funding a Super PAC supporting them or their opponent.

For the sake of the plot, the show’s writers may have purposefully sacrificed some authenticity for additional drama. But the show could have preserved that drama and reality by implicating Mr. Bishop in more crimes by using a pass-through company to make the contributions, a not-so-theoretical practice that was the subject of recent Federal Election Commission enforcement actions. For example, had Mr. Bishop funded the Super PAC through an anonymous LLC (the contributions would have been publicly disclosed as being made by the LLC, not by Mr. Bishop), Mr. Bishop would have been (potentially) committing campaign finance violations. And once again—but in a more realistic scenario—Alicia’s ethics would have been put to the test.

We’re all for a good plot, but when you can maintain the drama and the authenticity at the same time, we think it makes for even better television.

This blog post was written by Karen Blackistone Oaks, a partner with The Gober Group. She specializes in advising clients that are engaged in multi-faceted, multi-million dollar policy campaigns that incorporate a wide range of advocacy strategies.