You have to give Ryan Zinke credit: he’s always working an angle to promote himself. During the 2012 Presidential election, he founded a truly despicable front group called Special Operations for America which used dark money donations to attack President Obama. Now that same organization is is launching an Astroturf campaign to “draft” Zinke to run for the U.S. House from Montana.
On October 4, Zinke stepped down from his position as Chairman of the Super PAC.
Today, one week later, SOFA, an organization that doesn’t even have an active web site any longer and one that has not announced a replacement for Mr. Zinke, used its Facebook page to promote Zinke’s candidacy for the U.S. House. From their page:
SOFA posted three separate posts in the past two days promoting the idea of Zinke running for the U.S. House. There are no other candidates promoted on their Facebook page and no districts in which they suggest drafting a candidate to run. Its Twitter feed is also all about Zinke.
A super PAC with no named leadership just happens to be promoting a single candidate who was its former chair one week after his resignation. And this isn’t the first time SOFA has hinted at supporting a Zinke run.
It certainly isn’t a stretch to see the benefits of this approach. Using his anti-Obama super PAC to build a mailing list and to fundraise, Mr. Zinke has been able to jumpstart his House campaign without the spectacle of having to lend his campaign a great deal of money to get started. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Special Operations for America still had over $200,000 in its accounts as of June 2013 and before his resignation Zinke was actively raising money for the organization.
As a result, Zinke can (in a totally non-coordinated way, of course), have super PAC money to build his campaign from the start.
Helping the Zinke candidacy wouldn’t be the first time Zinke benefited financially from his work at SOFA. During his tenure as the chair of SOFA, Zinke received at least $30,000 dollars for “consulting” on fundraising and strategy.
In December of 2012, SOFA gave $5,100 to a company called Continental Divide International. The CEO of CDI? Ryan Zinke. In November of 2012, it was just over $3,000. In January of 2013, another $6,500 for “strategy consulting.” Between July and September of 2012, Continental Divide International received over $14,000 from SOFA for “fundraising consulting.”
This stiffly choreographed effort to launch the Zinke campaign may not have violated any campaign laws, but it all but ensures he will be a leading Republican candidate for Montana’s House seat in 2014. Given his penchant for shady dealings and his willingness to do anything to promote himself, he’s likely to be a formidable candidate.