Ethics Watchdog Calls for Probe of U.S. Senate Candidate & 501(c)(4) Organization
FACT Says Democratic Candidate in North Carolina
Coordinated Illegal Ads with VoteVets.Org Action Fund
Washington, D.C.—January 23, 2020— The non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) last week against VoteVets.Org Action Fund (a 501 (c)(4) political action committee), Cal Cunningham (U.S. Senate candidate), and his campaign committee, Cal for NC, for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act.
The complaint maintains that Cunningham has been using a public Flickr account to illegally coordinate with VoteVets.Org Action Fund, an outside organization that supports his candidacy. On December 20, 2019, the Cunningham campaign uploaded multiple photographs to the aforementioned public Flickr account created that month.
Just days later, on December 25, 2019, VoteVets.Org Action Fund began running TV advertisements on broadcast stations across North Carolina supporting Cunningham and emphasizing his service in the military and time as a state senator. The advertisement’s visual content consisted primarily of photographs, including five photos identical to those posted on the Cunningham campaign’s Flickr page.
The timing and use of the photos clearly indicate the photos were uploaded by Cal for NC to be used in VoteVets.Org Action Fund’s advertisement. Moreover, the licenses for all the photographs were listed as “All Rights Reserved,” which would require VoteVets.Org Actions Fund to request permission from the campaign to use the photographs.
Furthermore, VoteVets.Org Action Fund and the Cunningham campaign are also apparently coordinating on online fundraising with both organizations sending simultaneous fundraising solicitations that benefit both organizations collectively through a “contribution split.” These nearly identical fundraising solicitations arrived in inboxes mere minutes apart on December 27, 2019. Additionally, evidence suggests that VoteVets.Org Action Fund is repeating the exact same earned media messaging as Cunningham’s campaign website for their own endorsement press release.
“Last month, FACT filed a complaint against Senator Gary Peters of Michigan and his re-election campaign committee for illegally coordinating with this exact same organization, VoteVets.Org Action Fund,” said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director of FACT. “The illicit behavior of Cal Cunningham and his campaign committee closely mimics that of Peters, so it is imperative that each candidate and the vehicle for their illegal advertisements—namely, VoteVets.Org—be investigated and punished accordingly,” added Arnold.
A full copy of the complaint 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: www.factdc.org