Political campaigns are signaling their messages to outside groups

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 10:13 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - With 18 days left until election day, many are becoming sick of the countless number of political ads.

Many different campaigns, Political Action Committees (PACs) and other interest groups create ads, but most make similar claims and attacks against different candidates. According to one American Politics Professor, that’s no accident.

Megan Goldberg, who is an American Politics Professor at Cornell College, said it’s common for campaigns to signal their messages to outside groups so their messaging stays consistent.

““A super PAC can’t pick up the phone and call Theresa Greenfield’s Campaign Manager and say what do you think about us airing these commercials on Hulu with these shows,” she said. "They can’t do that, but the campaigns can post information these groups use.”

One example of campaigns signaling their messaging is the Iowa Democratic Party. Our KCRG-TV9 i9 investigative unit found the party published two different press releases with paragraphs, which are extremely similar to the scripts used in ads airing in our market.

Republican campaigns also signal their message to outside groups. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has multiple videos on his youtube page with high-quality footage of him smiling, sitting with his family and talking to people. Within a week an outside group supporting McConnell used the footage in an ad.

Although it’s illegal for campaigns to coordinate with PACs, signaling their messages is not.

Golberg said it’s extremely hard to prove coordination between a PAC and a campaign.

“In the same way a Super PAC can pick up on the talking points of a campaign from observing the campaign the same way a normal voter can pick up on things from a campaign,” she said. “That’s arguably what there doing. The campaigns are just putting other things up for that group.”

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