FEC Complaint Calls for Investigation of Possible Illegal Contributions & Coordination by Montana Congressional Candidate & Super PAC He Founded


Today, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, urged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate possible illegal in-kind contributions and coordination between Montana congressional candidate Ryan Zinke and the Super PAC he formed and that now supports his candidacy. The complaint, based on published reports, points to the Special Forces for America’s (SOFA) use of photographs that appear to have come from the Zinke campaign in television advertisements aired in support of Zinke’s candidacy. SOFA has spent more than $50,000 distributing the pro-Zinke ads since Zinke launched his campaign in October.
Photos of the candidate used extensively in SOFA’s advertisements appear to be from the same photo shoot as nearly identical photos posted on the Zinke campaign’s Facebook page. The photos appear onscreen for more than half of two different television advertisements aired by SOFA in support of Zinke. Federal law treats any funds spent by an outside group to republish candidate campaign materials as an in-kind contribution from the outside group to the candidate. Super PACs like SOFA are prohibited from making such in-kind contributions to candidates. And candidates are prohibited from coordinating with Super PACs in the republication of campaign materials.
“It appears that this Super PAC, set up by Mr. Zinke, is now using Zinke campaign photos in its so-called ‘independent’ ads. If so, this is a clear violation of a federal law that prohibits Super PACs from republishing candidate campaign materials,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “This is just another example of the myth of the independence between outside groups like SOFA and the candidates they support—a myth that the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC bought into when it announced that so-called independent expenditures don’t pose a threat of corruption.”
To read the complaint filed today by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.