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October 29, 2015

Single Candidate (c)(4) Fails At Pretending It’s Not Just About ‘Supporting Marco Rubio’

By Matt Corley

Last week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the IRS against Conservative Solutions Project, Inc. (CSP), a supposed social welfare organization that exists primarily to benefit Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) presidential campaign. CSP, which is not required to disclose its donors due to its non-profit status, has already spent millions on ads in early primary states that feature Sen. Rubio and attempt to enhance his image with voters.

The people behind CSP vehemently deny that its work is just aimed at helping Sen. Rubio in the GOP primaries. Jeff Sadosky, a spokesman for CSP as well as a related super PAC that is avowedly pro-Rubio, went so far as to tell National Journal that the group’s ads are “certainly not about any specific elected official or candidate.”

Simply viewing CSP’s ads refutes Sadosky’s claim. Though the ads avoid directly urging viewers to vote for Sen. Rubio, they all present him in a positive light in a blatant effort to enhance his electoral prospects with the voters. More evidence of the falsity of Sadosky’s statement is found in CSP ad contracts on file with the Federal Communications Commission. Take this contract, for instance, for an ad airing on New Hampshire’s WMUR, which lists Sen. Rubio -- and only Sen. Sen. Rubio -- as a “legally qualified candidate(s)” referred to in the ad:

 

Another contract for an ad to air on WPTZ in Plattsburgh, NY (the station’s coverage area includes part of New Hampshire) is even more revealing. As noted in CREW’s IRS complaint, CSP is affiliated with the pro-Rubio super PAC called Conservative Solutions PAC. In this ad contract, language is included, perhaps accidentally, that refers to the super PAC and claims the ad was “in support of Marco Rubio, NH Presidential Primary, 2/9/16 election”: 

 

 

The direct advocacy language could have been a mistake. CSP’s media buyer, Target Enterprises, also buys ads for Conservative Solutions PAC. But in other contracts with WPTZ, CSP’s ads are also described as “supporting Marco Rubio, NH Presidential Primary” without any mention of the super PAC:

 

Since CREW filed its complaint, CSP has rolled out two new ads featuring Sen. Rubio. One of them, which extolls a tax plan proposed by Sen. Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), appears to be an attempt to demonstrate that CSP isn’t just interested in promoting Sen. Rubio since it also mentions Sen. Lee. Yet even this effort fails.

Though the senators share equal billing on the tax plan, the text at the end CSP’s ad emphasizes Sen. Rubio by displaying Sen. Rubio’s name in larger text than Sen. Lee’s. In fact, the ad looks like it is really saying, “Support Marco Rubio.” Sen. Lee and the tax plan are just a smaller afterthought:

 

If the enlarged text wasn’t clear enough in telegraphing that the ad is meant to bolster Sen. Rubio’s presidential campaign rather than the tax legislation, CSP’s ad contract with WPTZ is more straightforward. It says the ad is “supporting Marco Rubio” in New Hampshire’s presidential primary.  

 

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