A TV commercial released this week by the pro-Mitt Romney "super PAC" looks much like an ad released about four years ago by the official Romney campaign, raising suspicions among watchdog groups of improper coordination between the super PAC and the GOP presidential candidate's current campaign.
The commercial, which is running in Arizona and Michigan in advance of Tuesday's primaries, tells the tale of Romney's former Bain Capital colleague Robert Gay, whose then-teenage daughter had run away in New York City for three days. In the ad, Gay recounts how Romney took the lead in coordinating search efforts for the girl.
The positive spot is identical to one run by the candidate himself in 2007. The only difference? The tag line at the end indicating that the ad was produced by the super PAC, Restore Our Future.
The question raised by campaign finance watchdogs is how the super PAC came to possess the old campaign's material for the ad.
"Super PACs are prohibited from making coordinated communications," Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center told the Huffington Post on Thursday. "Super PACs are also prohibited from making payments to candidates."
Fred Wertheimer of the campaign finance reform group Democracy 21 said in a statement: "Under federal law, any such re-broadcast of a Romney campaign ad by the Super PAC would be a contribution by the Super PAC to the Romney campaign and, if more than $5,000 was spent, it would be an illegal in-kind contribution by the Super PAC."
Restore Our Future denies any illegal coordination, saying that the group paid an independent vendor -- not the Romney campaign -- for the ad's content.
"The self-proclaimed watchdog groups imagine campaign finance violations around every corner," Charlie Spies, the group's counsel (and former counsel to the 2008 Romney campaign), said in a statement. "Restore Our Future has fully complied with all FEC regulations in purchasing archival footage for use in creating our advertisements."