That deceptive campaign ad that targeted Alabama’s black voters, warning them that their “community” would know if they didn’t support then-candidate Doug Jones because their vote was “public record,” was partially funded by some of the most well-known corporations, film makers and unions in the nation, according to data from the Federal Elections Commission.
A complicated process of transfers between political action committees and donors paid for the ad, but the money trail is clear as pebbles shining on a forest path.
Follow the money:
— The ads were purchased by a previously unknown super PAC called Highway 31, which spent about $6 million attacking Roy Moore and supporting Jones. Nobody knew who ran this organization or where it received its money during the election because it was created in the “dead zone” between financial reporting deadlines.
— Weeks after the election, it was learned that Highway 31 was “predominantly funded” by Senate Majority PAC, a group dedicated to electing Democrats to the U.S. Senate, and at least $1.5 million of the ads were bought through a partnership with Priorities USA, best known for running ads in support of President Barack Obama in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
— According to data from the Federal Elections Commission, Senate Majority PAC was funded in this election cycle by the Methodist Health Foundation ($1 million), online payment company Allied Wallet ($500,000), American Federation of Teachers ($250,000), the National Association of Letter Carriers ($250,000), the pharmaceutical giant Merck ($25,000), health insurance company Anthem ($25,000) and even iHeartRadio ($16,000) and Pepsi ($8,000).
— Another report from the commission shows that during the last cycle Priorities USA received money from George Soros ($10.5 million), the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union ($4 million), Steven Spielberg’s film studio DreamWorks SKG ($2 million), the National Air Traffic Controllers Association ($1.2 million), and J.J. Abrams’s film and television company Bad Robot Productions ($1 million).
— “If you don’t vote and Roy Moore – a child predator – wins, could you live with that?” the ad asked. “Your vote is public record, and your community will know whether or not you helped stop Roy Moore. On Tuesday, Dec. 12, vote for Doug Jones for Senate.”
— Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill called the ad a “targeted effort to misinform and confuse voters” and reminded them that “no individual voting record is made available to anyone at any time, including the voter who cast the ballot.”
— The ad was so awful that even Google took it down, along with several television stations in Alabama.
The PACs believe they’ve found an effective trick to boost black turn out, so we should expect to hear the ad in other races later this year.
“Hopefully this race can serve as a blueprint for campaigns in 2018 — embrace digital campaigning and devote the necessary resources to persuading and turning out African-American voters early, not just the final weekend of a race,” said Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for Priorities USA.
(Do you think this ad was racist? Take this article over to social media and tell your family and friends why.)