The campaign website of Carrick Flynn, a Democratic candidate for Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District seat, contains a link to his “media resources,” which in turn provides a link to his videos and photos (including the one on this story).
That’s a convenient resource for anyone who wants to make ads to support Flynn.
A super PAC, Protect Our Future, has done just that, spending more than $1.3 million to support Flynn in the competitive Democratic primary for Oregon’s new seat.
Under federal election laws, super PACs and candidates cannot coordinate their activities. If PACs such as Protect Our Future, which is bankrolled by crypto-tycoon Sam Bankman-Fried, want to get involved in candidate races, they must do so entirely independently, without communicating with the campaigns of candidates they support.
But an opposing Democratic candidate’s campaign noticed an odd detail: The super PAC sent its ads to TV stations on the same day (Feb. 17) that Flynn’s campaign uploaded video that contained content used in the ad to its public YouTube channel, making it logistically challenging (if not impossible) for the super PAC to have gotten the video from what was publicly posted on YouTube publicly.
Instead, it alleges, the super PAC must have gotten the footage from the campaign—a charge the Flynn campaign disputes, providing evidence to the contrary.
The campaign of Matt West, another Democrat seeking the CD 6 nomination, is asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate possible coordination between the Flynn campaign and the super PAC.
“If, as it appears, Carrick Flynn for Oregon made the footage used in the ad available to Protect Our Future PAC prior to publicly releasing said footage, then they have engaged in a brazenly illegal coordinated effort,” writes Robin Logsdon in the letter dated March 1. “This is an unprecedented attempt to buy an election. We strongly request that the FEC take up this matter and uphold the law.”
The Flynn campaign denies any impropriety, initially sending WW a screenshot of its YouTube channel that shows the campaign posted a shorter video on Feb. 4 that was private at the time of this story’s initial publication.
Since initial publication of the story, the Flynn campaign made the shorter 58-second video public again as a way to demonstrate the super PAC had the same access as anybody else to relevant shots, weeks in advance of their ad’s debut. The Flynn campaign, also subsequent to this story’s publication, provided screenshots of YouTube analytics with further evidence that the shorter video was public at that time. (The shorter video on March 2 had roughly the same number of views—116—as more recent public ones.)
“This is a frivolous complaint,” says Avital Balwit, campaign manager for Flynn. “The allegation is entirely false. Carrick is focused on long-term solutions for Oregonians like preventing future pandemics, getting ready for the effects of climate change like flooding and wildfires, and bringing good, family-supporting jobs to our region, especially in advanced manufacturing.”
Protect Our Future PAC officials did not return multiple voicemails requesting comment or offering a copy of the FEC complaint.
After publication on March 3, the head of the PAC emphatically denied any impropriety and defended their choice of candidate.
“This is an absurd and inaccurate allegation,” said Michael Sadowsky, president of Protect Our Future, in a statement. “All Protect Our Future ads have been developed with publicly available content, as is required by law. Protect Our Future exists to help elect candidates who will take a long term view on policy making and planning—those who want to help protect our collective future by making smart decisions now. We support Carrick Flynn, along with a number of other candidates across the U.S., due to his deep expertise on and commitment to advancing long-term solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems—namely, preparing for and preventing pandemics, so Oregonians never again face the health and economic turmoil that too many families have experienced since 2020.”
Update: this story has been updated with additional information from the Flynn campaign and comment from Protect Our Future PAC.