The report goes on to specify ground and field organization and technology as areas where Republicans have fallen behind and are in need of outside support to be able to “effectively compete with the Democrats.” Democratic allies such as labor unions focus heavily on field organizing and ground game, and progressive organizations such as Catalist maintain political databases that both the party and its supporters can purchase for campaigns.

Bill Allison, the editorial director of the watchdog group Sunlight Foundation, said that so far there haven’t been complaints to the Federal Election Commission that Catalist or other Democratic groups have illegally coordinated with campaigns. But he said that the level of coordination already occurring on the Democratic side is troubling, and the practice bears close watching by the press and other observers.

“Anything that is suggestive of a pre-existing arrangement” between a campaign and outside group to divide up voter contacts would be a sign of illegal coordination, Allison said. One of the clearest indications would be geographic boundaries between campaign and outside groups’ outreach zones. “That is what I would look for,” Allison said. “Are there particular counties? Are there particular areas?”

The RNC did not respond to CJR’s inquiries about whether it was taking any measures to prevent illegal coordination.


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Sasha Chavkin covers political money and influence for CJR's United States Project, our politics and policy desk. He has written for ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, and The New York World. Follow him on Twitter @sashachavkin.