Press Releases

End Citizens United Files FEC Complaint Against JD Vance Campaign and Protect Ohio Values PAC for Illegal In-Kind Contribution Scheme

Jun 09, 2022

The complaint states that Protect Ohio Values PAC illegally provided the Senate campaign of JD Vance with draft communications materials and campaign strategy documents

End Citizens United (ECU) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Protect Ohio Values PAC (POV PAC) and JD Vance for Senate Inc. Vance is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Ohio. By providing the campaign with valuable resources through a secret website it created, the super PAC circumvented the law and denied voters access to knowledge about the full extent of who supported the campaign.

Click here to read the complaint.

The complaint states that POV PAC paid for campaign strategy documents and draft communications materials that were provided to the Vance Campaign through a hidden website, in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Essentially, the super PAC made a massive in-kind contribution to the Vance campaign by paying to procure these materials and providing them to the campaign at no charge, violating federal laws prohibiting in-kind contributions from super PACs.

At issue in the complaint is the use of a “secret website,” operated by POV PAC for the alleged purpose of providing the above-mentioned materials to the Vance campaign. According to a report in Politico, the website was used to provide “a trove of sensitive documents,” including polling data, opposition research and memos, and even ideas for a script for a campaign ad on immigration that the Vance campaign subsequently produced. As the complaint explains, before Politico’s report publicized it, the website was extremely difficult to find and its existence was not publicly known, making plain that its only intended audience was the Vance campaign.

“This abuse is perhaps one of the clearest and most flagrant examples of a candidate and a super PAC skirting campaign finance laws,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United. “Protect Ohio Values PAC and JD 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. The FEC should immediately investigate this matter and hold all parties accountable.”

POV PAC spent over $14 million on independent expenditures supporting Vance’s candidacy, as permitted by law. But super PACs and other outside groups are prohibited from contributing directly to candidates, whether in the form of money or valuable campaign materials that the group uses its resources to procure. As detailed in the complaint, POV PAC violated that prohibition when it paid to obtain campaign materials that it provided to Vance’s campaign at no charge. Indeed, on the hidden website, POV PAC commented that it was helping “bring presidential level [voter] targeting sophistication to JD’s campaign without expecting the campaign to shoulder the cost.” Vance’s campaign, in turn, accepted and made use of these illegal campaign resources provided at no charge, as demonstrated by the campaign developing a communication essentially mirroring the POV PAC ad proposal.

To reduce political corruption, we need real transparency about who is spending big money on elections so that politicians can no longer receive unlimited, secret contributions – whether those be in the form of money or other resources – from wealthy special interests to support their campaigns. The FEC should swiftly take action to address this illegal activity so that Ohio voters are able to fully assess the messages they are seeing in this hotly contested race.