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FEC Approves Rental of Schiff Campaign Email List to Promote New Book

November 23, 2021 by Dan McCue
In this Tuesday, March 3, 2020 photo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters as lawmakers work to extend government surveillance powers that are expiring soon, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is free to rent the email list compiled by his principal campaign committee, Schiff for Congress, to promote his new memoir, “Midnight in Washington,” the Federal Election Commission said in an advisory opinion announced Wednesday.

Random House, a division of Penguin House Publishing, released Schiff’s memoir, the full name of which is “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could” on Oct. 12, and it quickly became a bestseller, briefly reaching the top of The New York Times nonfiction list. 

Under the agreement between Schiff and Random House, the book company will incur all costs associated with the publication and promotion of the book and determine all details of its advertising and promotion.

After Random House recoups its publication and promotion costs, Schiff and Random House will each receive 50% of the net profits from the sale of the book.

Explicitly laid out in the agreement is that Random House’s activities will only involve “the publication, promotion and sale of the book” and “will not include any fundraising activity or solicitations for Schiff, Schiff for Congress or his upcoming bid for re-election in 2022.”

But in a letter dated Oct. 6., Stephen Kaufman, an attorney for Schiff, reached out to the election commission for an advisory opinion.

What he wanted to know was whether it was permitted under commission regulations for Schiff for Congress to either rent its email list directly to Random House to promote the book, or in the alternative, if the campaign could rent the list to Schiff, for the same use, with Random House later reimbursing him the cost.

The commission concluded that both proposals are permissible under the Federal Election Campaign Act and its own regulations.

In a letter to Kaufman, Commission Chair Shana Broussard said, “Under both proposals, the committee would be paid the fair market value for the list rental determined by an independent list broker and no committee resources or personnel would be used to promote the book.”

She further noted that Random House had promised not to enter into a list rental agreement with the campaign committee, make a payment to the committee, or in the alternative, make a payment to Schiff, until the commission had provided its guidance.

Despite rendering a decision, Broussard said the commission could not expand on the rationale behind its decision because it “did not agree on a rationale for this conclusion by four affirmative votes.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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