Fundraising Flopped for Democrat Behind ‘Worst Campaign Ad Ever’

'Painful' Top Gun-themed ad cost Dan Helmer's campaign $33k

Screen shot from 'HelmerZone'
• October 18, 2017 1:35 pm


The Democratic campaign responsible for creating the Top Gun-themed video that was quickly labeled the "worst campaign ad ever" said it brought about a "fundraising bump" despite the criticism. But a newly filed campaign filing shows that fundraising actually slowed.

Democrat Dan Helmer, whose infamous ad "Helmer Zone" has been removed from YouTube due to a copyright claim, is running in a crowded primary contest to win the right to challenge incumbent Republican representative Barbara Comstock in Virginia's 10th district. The ad, filled with references to the 1986 Tom Cruise classic, earned Helmer a lot of attention, but all of it was negative.

It was showcased by CBS late night talk show host Stephen Colbert, who called the ad "painful" and crowned it the "worst campaign ad of the 2018 midterms." The Daily Beast went a step further in a piece headlined "This Might Be the Worst Congressional Campaign Ad Ever."

"Whoever told House Democratic candidate Dan Helmer this ad was a great idea should reevaluate whether negative attention could be considered good attention," wrote the Daily Beast.

Helmer's campaign, however, defended the ad, saying it created a "fundraising bump." But the campaign's filing shows it brought in less money this quarter than the one before and also less money the week after releasing the ad than the week before.

The campaign reported $163,139 in contributions in the three months from July through September. This is less than the $246,262 it brought in during the previous three months.

A look inside the filing shows there was no fundraising bump created by the ad, which was released on Monday, Sept. 18.

In the calendar week leading up to the ad's release, the campaign brought in $17,500, according to reported receipts. Contributions decreased the next week, with the campaign bringing in only $14,200.

The Helmer campaign made five payments totaling $32,951 for online advertising and communications consulting to GPS Impact, a media company regularly hired by Democratic campaigns. The payments were made on Sept. 14, a few days before the ad was released.

Attempts to reach Helmer's campaign were unsuccessful.

Helmer's fundraising last quarter trailed two other Democrats—Alison Friedman and state senator Jennifer Wexton—who raised $241,857 and $255,075, respectively. He slightly outpaced a third Democratic competitor, Lindsey David Stover, who raised $137,137.

All trailed Comstock, who raised $447,993 and has nearly $1 million in cash on hand.

The ad was captured by Daily Mail, and can be viewed below.