Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, denies authorizing a disturbing TV ad that depicted his opponent’s supporters as murderous neo-Confederates, but state campaign finance reports suggest the campaign coordinated with the group responsible for producing the ad.
Earlier this week, Latino Victory fund, a progressive political action committee, released a video of a white man in a pickup truck sporting an Ed Gillespie bumper chasing after a group of frightened minorities. Latino Victory pulled the ad, which had drawn outrage from conservative groups for its overt racial fear-mongering, hours after an Islamic terrorist used a rented van to run down and kill 8 people in New York on Tuesday. (RELATED: Hispanic Group Pulls Confederate Truck Rampage Ad After NY Terror Attack)
A spokesperson for the Northam campaign initially defended the messaging in the ad, but Northam himself later denied that the video was produced at the direction of his campaign.
“That commercial did not come from our campaign,” the Democratic candidate said in an interview with Virginia NBC affiliate WAVY News. “It’s certainly not a commercial that I would have wanted to run.”
The Northam campaign on Wedenesday claimed that it did not approve the ad, saying that it was instead an “in-kind” donation from Latino Victory to the campaign, reports the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel.
“We did not authorize the ad. But they are not an IE [independent expenditure],” a campaign spokespoerson told Weigel. “They [Latino Victory] go to our canvasses. They have held fundraisers for us.”
“They legally had to report the in kind,” the campaign added.
But as Phil Kerpen, the president of conservative policy organization American Commitment, noted Thursday on Twitter, Latino Victory is not required to report in-kind donations. Under Virginia election law, political action groups must report independent expenditures, while campaigns are responsible for disclosing in-kind contributions.
The Virginia Department of Elections draws a distinction between independent expenditures and in-kind donations. IEs are expenditures made by outside groups — like Latino Victory — in support of a candidate, but without any coordination between the group and the campaign. To qualify as an in-kind donation, on the other hand, the “candidate or an agent of the candidate’s campaign committee must have either expressly requested or suggested to the person or committee that the expenditure be made.”
On Wednesday, the same day Latino Victory pulled its ad, the Northam campaign filed a large contribution report with the Virginia elections department. The disclosure showed a $62,729 in-kind donation from Latino Victory received on Oct. 31. The donation was described as a “media” expense and was easily the single largest expenditure that Latino Victory has made during the current election cycle, according to data compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project.
By disclosing the truck video as an in-kind donation, the Northam campaign confirmed that the ad was not produced independently of the campaign, but was “expressly requested or suggested” to Latino Victory. Kerpen doubts that no one in the campaign saw the ad before it aired, but he told The Daily Caller News Foundation that campaign officials may have avoided a review of the content in order to preserve deniability for its creation.
“The Northam campaign is saying, ‘Even though this was legally a coordinated communication, we didn’t look at the content of the ad,'” he said. “Now, I find that very unlikely because, if you are working hand-in-glove with an outside group as part of your campaign … why would you not want to see the content of an ad that you were perfectly allowed to see?”
“The only reason I can think that their statement might be technically true is if they said, ‘Guys, do something over the top, but we don’t want to see it, because we want to be able to deny it if we have to,'” Kerpen added.
Latino Victory did not immediately respond to an inquiry by TheDCNF about the truck ad.
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