Ethics Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Ted Strickland’s Senate Campaign
Updated: Mar 19, 2019
FACT Says OH U.S. Senate Candidate Using Campaign Website to Illegally Coordinate with Super PACs
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a non-partisan ethics watchdog group, directed by former U.S. Attorney Matthew G. Whitaker, today, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) requesting an investigation into Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland and his campaign committee, Strickland for Senate, for using his campaign website to illegally and stealthily coordinate with super PACs that support his candidacy. FACT maintains these are serious violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act, and Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations.
According to the complaint, Strickland’s Senate campaign website contains a separate section called ”Ohio Needs to Know” which they are using to stealthily communicate with super PACs about what television ads they want the super PACs to run. They even go so far as to identify the specific media markets for those ads. Once the desired ad is run by outside groups, the information under the “Ohio Needs to Know” tab is then updated with new instructions. In some instances, the information being communicated is not general candidate or campaign information that is usually provided to the general public, but moreover, specific content and direction based on the campaign’s internal information and advertising needs that is targeted to super PACs.
The FACT complaints cites four major instances where this occurred.
For example, on July 12, 2016, the following was posted on the Strickland website: “Portman is the best senator China’s ever had—he voted for job killing trade deals like NAFTA, permanent most favored trading status for China and other unfair trade deals that cost Ohio over 300,000 jobs.” After this was posted, Senate Majority PAC responded and posted an ad stating:
“This is the Chinese Embassy in Washington. Wonder what they’re up to in there. Probably giving Rob Portman an award for being China’s best senator. After all Portman voted for eight different trade deals. Portman even led the fight to give the Chinese permanent special trading status. Sure hope Rob Portman is not in there negotiating another trade deal. Hard to believe this guy is running for reelection in Ohio.”
“The striking similarity between the thinly veiled information and instructions Strickland is posting on his website and the subsequent ads being run by Strickland supporting super PACs communicating that information is a crime, not a coincidence,” said Matthew Whitaker, Executive Director of the Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust (FACT). “Furthermore, the fact that this coordination is being done in a public-facing fashion makes this situation more troubling as it is a blatant, back door attempt to skirt and undermine our nation’s campaign finance laws,” added Whitaker.
FACT maintains this is an extreme violation of our nation’s campaign finance laws because those laws clearly prohibit a candidate from requesting, either directly or indirectly, a super PAC to run certain ads or republish candidate campaign materials. Additionally, Strickland’s use of a public venue to coordinate with his super PAC is not a defense, as any request would violate the laws on contributions limits to candidates.
Strickland is not the only high profile U.S. Senate candidate violating the law in this fashion, using obscure webpages, often titled “voters need to know,” with identical language to indicate the ad content. FACT has filed similar complaints in the past month against Florida U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty.
“FACT is going to continue to aggressively pursue these egregious violations by calling out candidates each and every time this is done, because the FEC needs to act swiftly so that this illegal behavior doesn’t give license for other candidates to do the same,” added Whitaker.
FACT's complaint against Strickland is available here.
FACT's complaint against Patrick Murphy is available here.
FACT's complaint against Katie McGinty is available here.
FACT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas. For more on FACT, visit: http://www.factdc.org/.