Earlier this month, a pro-ethanol nonprofit group, America’s Renewable Future, launched a campaign in Iowa attacking Sen. Ted Cruz’s position on the ethanol-boosting Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as hypocritical. The anonymously funded radio ads hitting Sen. Cruz appear to be the work of a consultant who also runs a super PAC supporting one of Sen. Cruz’s GOP presidential primary rivals, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
The ads are hosted on the YouTube page of the Concordia Group, an Iowa-based public affairs consulting firm. The president and founder of the firm is Nick Ryan, a political operative known for the American Future Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization that has spent millions to influence elections. As Ryan’s Concordia bio notes, he is also the president of Pursuing America’s Greatness, a super PAC supporting Gov. Huckabee.
The Concordia Group’s YouTube hosting of the radio ads isn’t the only evidence of Ryan’s involvement. In a press release defending the group’s ads against complaints from Sen. Cruz’s campaign, America’s Renewable Future links to a Microsoft Word fact-checking document of the ad. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington downloaded the document and discovered metadata showing that Ryan is listed as the author:
Campaign finance records show that between April 2015 and June 2015, Pursuing America’s Greatness, the pro-Huckabee super PAC, paid the Concordia Group nearly $30,000 for “PAC management” and travel reimbursements. The super PAC also paid another company founded by Ryan, Global Intermediate LLC, more than $2,000 during that time period.
Though the super PAC is not required to report its fundraising and expenses for the second half of 2015 until next month, independent expenditure reports filed by the group show that at least one of Ryan’s companies is still being paid. In fact, in the days before the ethanol group’s anti-Cruz ad campaign launched, Pursuing America’s Greatness paid Ryan’s Global Intermediate $22,473 for direct mail opposing Sen. Cruz.
In what may or not be a coincidence, on the same day that America’s Renewable Future kicked off its anti-Cruz campaign, Gov. Huckabee visited an ethanol plant in Iowa and reaffirmed his support for the RFS. Two days later, Gov. Huckabee published an op-ed in the Des Moines Register calling for an end to hypocrisy on ethanol policy, echoing the message of an anti-Cruz radio ad run by the pro-ethanol group.
America’s Renewable Future, which is also hitting Sen. Cruz with direct mail pieces, has not filed any reports with the Federal Election Commission. As a result, it is unknown who is actually paying for the ads.
When America’s Renewable Future first announced its plans to make ethanol a top issue in the Iowa caucuses, the group’s organizers told the Des Moines Register that funders included the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, and Growth Energy. Ryan’s duel role raises questions about whether the group has received funding from Huckabee supporters specifically for the anti-Cruz ads, but the public may never learn the answer. America’s Renewable Future is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, so it can keep its donors secret.