No one outside of the small group who believes that wider sidewalks are part of a UN conspiracy believes the claims that Montana congressional candidate Ryan Zinke isn’t coordinating with the Special Operations for America Super PAC he led until days before his congressional bid was announced, but coordination between PACs and candidates is difficult to prove. The real evidence of coordination here is Zinke’s relationship with the Super PAC, the fact that it’s not spending any energy on the other candidates it claims to support, and that it’s still located right next to Zinke’s address.
Coordination between candidates and Super PACS is explicitly illegal under campaign finance laws, with specific prohibitions against candidates communicating with the Super PAC.
Kalispell’s Scott Wilson Photography posted a series of images on Facebook of the Zinke family, part of a series of “campaign photos” that later involved the whole family. It’s a lovely set of shots.
The second photo from the right shows the family gathered together and another was so nice the Zinke campaign posted it on Twitter just yesterday:
The first is a lovely family photo—one that’s so nice Special Operations for America featured it in both of the ads they’ve released on behalf of the candidate:
It’s possible that Special Operations for America lifted a low-resolution image from Facebook and turned it into a high-resolution photograph good enough for television and it’s possible they’re violating Scott Wilson’s copyright on the photograph and using it without his permission.
Or it’s just a bit more likely that candidate Zinke gave his Super PAC a nice, camera-ready image he liked so much he’s using it for his family, his Congressional campaign, and for his totally-unaffiliated Super PAC’s use.
In the scheme of the likely violations of campaign finance laws being committed by Zinke and Special Operations for America, this is small potatoes—but a pretty clear indication of coordination.
Update: James raises some fair points in the comments below. It’s certainly possible that an outfit like SOFA would lift an image without permission for their ad, too. In either case, it demonstrates the total absurdity of campaign finance in the wake of Citizens United. It’s illegal for a candidate to coordinate directly with a Super PAC, but permissible to post images, text, and video they just happen to use in their ads? It’s a totally broken system.