Evidence Indicates Cooney and the DGA Engaged in Prohibited Coordinated Communication.
Washington, D.C.— September 3, 2020— Today, the non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), filed a complaint with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices to seek investigation into Lt. Governor Mike Cooney, who is currently running for Governor, and the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) for prohibited coordinated communications.
FACT explains that Cooney and the DGA have been working together on campaign strategy. On April 13, 2020, Cooney participated in a 30 minute zoom call with the DGA from his state office. The topic was on “campaign strategy,” which Cooney later described as a “briefing from DGA to participants about its recent work.” Due to the fact that Cooney engaged in campaign activity from a state facility, he, therefore, violated the Code of Ethics. Then in August, within two days of one another, Cooney and the DGA released similar advertising communications on identical subject matter that used the exact same unique slogan. Cooney's campaign video was then followed by a DGA website, for which the domain name had been purchased the month before, and a Twitter account.
The filing states, “Under Montana law, candidates are subject to regulations that limit or prohibit contributions from individuals, groups, or organizations. In this case, the DGA is prohibited from contributing more than $710 to a gubernatorial candidate. A contribution is broadly defined and includes:
1. the receipt by a candidate or a political committee of an advance, gift, loan, conveyance, deposit, payment, or distribution of money or anything of value to support or oppose a candidate or a ballot issue;
2. an expenditure, including an in-kind expenditure, that is made in coordination with a candidate . . ."
“It is abundantly clear that the DGA and Cooney have been communicating. Then, within two days of one another, Cooney and the DGA released campaign content that used the exact same slogan and looks to be part of the same advertising campaign. The DGA is not allowed to supplement Cooney's campaign with in-kind advertising donations over $710, and it appears the expense to create the online advertising far exceeded this amount. The Commission needs to investigate Cooney again, along with the DGA, for prohibited coordinated communications and apply appropriate sanctions to ensure Cooney doesn’t continue to violate ethics rules," said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director of FACT.
A full copy of the complaint (which includes the Cooney/DGA website) can be found 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/