J.D. Vance knowingly accepted potentially unlawful support from a super PAC funded by right-wing billionaire Peter Thiel, according to a new legal complaint.
The complaint filed by the watchdog groups Campaign Legal Center and End Citizens United alleges the Vance campaign and the Protect Ohio Values super PAC illegally coordinated for months through a secret website where the PAC posted hundreds of pages of strategy assessments, internal polling data and other valuable information that helped the investment banker win Donald Trump's endorsement and win his primary election, reported The Daily Beast.
“This abuse is perhaps one of the clearest and most flagrant examples of a candidate and a super PAC skirting campaign finance laws,” said End Citizens United president Tiffany Muller. “Protect Ohio Values PAC and J.D. Vance’s campaign completely disregarded the law as the super PAC essentially served as an all-inclusive and paid-for arm of the campaign. Wealthy donors danced around the law to prop up their preferred candidate, who will inevitably be indebted to them."
"People in Ohio — or anywhere else — don’t want billionaires buying elections, and are fed up with it," Muller added. "The FEC should immediately investigate this matter and hold all parties accountable.”
Federal law prohibits coordination between super PACs and campaigns, and the watchdogs presented evidence they believe shows months of unlawful coordination, reporting violations and in-kind donations worth millions.
The secret Protect Ohio Values website was hosted on the Medium blogging platform and housed valuable data and detailed reports that was not accessible to the general public until it was revealed by Politico on May 3, the day of Ohio's primary election, although the group's official website consists of a simple homepage with only two sentences.
The 94-page complaint indicates the super PAC set up the Medium website to be undiscoverable, and Protect Ohio Values leadership was reportedly stunned when Politico published a sensitive internal poll in February and tried to smoke out an internal leaker, although it turns out a rival campaign had accidentally found the site months before the election.
The campaign staffer who found the page told The Daily Beast the discovery was simply the result of luck during a late-night dive into Google, and allowed them to monitor information posted on the site in the months before the primary election.
“While I have seen sites like these, both Democratic and Republican, where campaigns and super PACs make information public, the sheer amount of information shared on this site was absolutely unprecedented,” the staffer said. “Access to this detailed information (polling, opposition research, even proposed ad scripts) likely saved the [Vance] campaign over a million dollars of spending and clearly attempted to help dictate and coordinate the messaging of the campaign and Protect Ohio Values."
One post from Oct. 4 shows the super PAC openly admitting it planned to share information through a common vendor, DeepRoot, and the super PAC recommended that Vance focus on immigration to gain Trump's endorsement, and the complaint also highlights instances where the campaign drew heavily from a draft script posted on the website.
Protect Ohio Values suggested in a Feb. 17 post that Vance would declare drug cartels "terrorist organizations," which the "Hillbilly Elegy" author did in in two interviews and a tweet, and Trump endorsed him 10 days after his campaign released an anti-immigration ad based on the draft script.