It seems that the coordination between the Ryan Zinke campaign and the Special Operations for America Super PAC has extended to the world of television advertising.
Zinke, you might recall, started the Special Operations Super PAC and ceremoniously left his role as its chair right before announcing his campaign for the House. Since then, in ways large and small, Special Operations for America has worked for the Zinke campaign.
And now we come to television advertising. Despite having the largest campaign war chest of any candidate for the US House, Zinke hasn’t purchased any TV air time for his commercials in the Republican primary. At the same time, his rivals Corey Stapleton and Matt Rosendale have purchased $100,000 and $163,000 worth of TV ad time respectively.
That Zinke isn’t purchasing ad time in what promises to be a competitive primary would be incredibly surprising, except that he doesn’t have to. He has his totally uncoordinated Super PAC available to do it for him. Special Operations for America has already purchased another $63,000 of TV ad time to support Zinke’s campaign. While he primary (and general) election opponents have to rely on their own fundraising prowess, Zinke can rely on his proxies in Special Operations for America to do the heavy lifting on TV.
To believe that Zinke has chosen not to invest in TV advertising while his former SuperPAC picks up the slack for stretches credulity to its breaking point. A far more likely scenario is that Special Operations for America is freeing up Zinke to have a separate war chest for his primary and general election campaigns, and that is precisely the kind of coordination the law prohibits:
The Federal Election Commission prohibits super-PACs from coordinating with candidates or their campaigns, but it defines “coordination” as specific conversations about advertising strategy.
Given that Zinke hand-picked his successor at Special Operations for America, that they hit the ground running even before his campaign began, and that they seem to exist largely to fulfill Zinke’s self-aggrandizing personal agenda, it seems quite likely that TV advertising strategy was certainly discussed.