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July 26th, 2012

FEC Complaint Filed Against AFSCME, Pelosi’s House PAC for Vilsack Ad

A complaint has been filed with the FEC regarding a new commercial produced by Nancy Pelosi’s House Majority PAC, along with AFSCME and SEIU, supporting Iowa congressional hopeful Christie Vilsack. At issue is the footage used in the video. Some of it appears to be identical to footage used by the Vilsack campaign in an advertisement.

James Black, a former state senator, believes the usage of identical footage by the independent PACs and the Vilsack campaign is in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and FEC violations. He filed the complaint Wednesday.

Here are the points in the ad that are at issue:

·      At :08 seconds, the AFSCME/HMPAC Advertisement shows a playground scene, panning to a shot of Vilsack sitting on a park bench with a man and a woman. At 1:02, the Campaign Web Advertisement shows the exact same footage, panning from the same playground scene to the same shot of Vilsack sitting on a park bench with the same man and woman.

·      At :22 seconds, the AFSCME/HMPAC Advertisement shows Vilsack speaking to a gentleman in a light blue collared shirt. At :15, the Campaign Web Advertisement shows the same footage of Vilsack speaking to the same gentleman.

·      At :27 seconds, the AFSCME/HMPAC Advertisement shows Vilsack walking through a corn field with a man and a woman, as the three walk out of the camera’s shot. At :18 seconds, the Campaign Web Advertisement shows the same scene of Vilsack and the other people walking through the corn field and out of the camera’s shot.

Relevant Law

Committees that solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, political committees, corporations and labor organizations for the purpose of making independent expenditures are prohibited from making direct contributions to federal political committees. See Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 130 S. Ct. 876, 901 (2010)(noting that Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976) first upheld the FECA’s limits on direct contributions to candidates to protect against the government interest in the prevention of corruption and the appearance of corruption”). See also FEC Advisory Opinion 2010-11 (approving an organization’s proposal to solicit non-federal funds in order to make independent expenditures, as long as the organization refrained from making “any monetary or in-kind contributions (including coordinated communications) to any other political committee or organization”).

The financing of the dissemination, distribution, or republication, in whole or in part, of any broadcast or graphic materials prepared by the candidate, the candidate’s authorized committee, or an agent of either shall be considered a contribution for purposes of contribution limitations and reporting responsibilities of the person making the expenditure. 11 CFR § 109.23.  There are exceptions to this rule, but none are applicable in the situation at hand.[1] In-kind contributions, like other contributions, are subject to federal contribution limits.


[1] See 11 CFR §109.23(b), granting exceptions from the definition of contribution for republication by the candidate or candidate’s authorized committee who prepared the material, for campaign material incorporated into a communication that advocates the defeat of the candidate that prepared the material, for republication in a news story, editorial, or commentary, for republication of a “brief quote of materials that demonstrate a candidate’s position”, or for republication paid for with coordinated party expenditure authority.” Clearly none of the exceptions explained herein apply in this case.

See Vilsack’s ad:
See AFSME’s Ad:

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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