Dem Campaign Finance Reformer’s B-Roll Video Raises Super PAC Questions

September 21, 2016

A Democratic House candidate running on a campaign finance reform platform is employing advertising tactics that other campaigns have used to circumvent restrictions on outside political spending.

The campaign of Zephyr Teachout, a left-wing Democrat running in New York’s 19th congressional district, posted a video on YouTube on Tuesday featuring generic b-roll footage of the candidate.

The video contains no overlaid text or narration. It features an apparent campaign logo and slogan at the end, but no "paid for by" disclaimer.

The campaign said in an emailed statement that the video was "shot for our own purposes, but we've got a number of volunteer videographers who have asked for footage so we just put it online."

The footage’s availability to third parties means that it can be used not just by individual Teachout supporters, by also by independent political groups that are legally barred from coordinating with her campaign.

Posting such clips on public video channels is a commonly used strategy for getting around prohibitions on political campaign coordination with independent groups such as Super PACs, which can spend unlimited sums on candidates’ behalves as long as they do not coordinate with their campaigns.

Once the footage is publicly available, independent political groups can download it and use it for their own purposes. The campaign that posted the footage is not technically coordinating with the third party group, even though it is supplying material for potential use in independent political ads.

The possibility that groups supporting Teachout might employ that tactic is particularly noteworthy given her outspoken criticism of Supreme Court decisions that liberalized campaign finance laws for independent political groups.

Most of the Super PAC spending in her contest with Republican John Faso has opposed Teachout’s candidacy. But she has received support from a Super PAC affiliated with the National Nurses United labor union.

Published under: 2016 Election