The media-buying firm that placed racially charged ads for Bishop Ronnie Crudup’s pro-Thad Cochran super PAC, All Citizens for Mississippi, is affiliated with the same firm that National Republican Senatorial Committee gave $175,000 to for media purposes.
On American Family Radio’s talk show Focal Point with Bryan Fischer this week, guest Rick Shaftan, a pollster and political consultant, accused the NRSC of funding advertisements attributed to the super PAC All Citizens for Mississippi, which Crudup helped form.
Crudup’s super PAC, which shares an address with his church in a former strip mall, bought radio advertisements at Jackson stations WKXI, WJMI and WOAD on June 20 to air June 21-24, leading up to the Republican primary runoff. The ads encouraged black voters to turn out to the polls in support of Sen. Thad Cochran and suggested Sen. Chris McDaniel, if elected, would hurt race relations in Mississippi.
The super PAC bought 52 radio spots for each of these stations, which cater to black audiences, amounting to $9,825. Bishop Crudup told The Clarion-Ledger he helped raise nearly $200,000 for All Citizens for Mississippi, which was mostly spent on campaign advertisements for Cochran.
The ads were placed by the media-buying firm, American Media Advocacy Group, which also placed ads at WLBT for the super PAC Mississippi Conservatives, another campaign group in support of Cochran.
Jon Ferrell, from National Media Research Planning & Placement, an Alexandria, Va.-based firm that buys advertisements for clients, bought the ads through another firm, American Media Advocacy Group, for both Jackson TV and radio stations.
“A victory for Chris McDaniel is a loss for the reputation of this state for race, for race relationships between blacks and whites and other ethnic groups. Mississippi can't afford Chris McDaniel,” Crudup says in the clip, played on AFA radio’s segment.
An analysis by The New York Times, released July 10, shows that Cochran won the June 24 election by a total of 7,667 votes, with almost half of them coming from heavily Democratic precincts in Jackson.
All Citizens for Mississippi also ran ads in the Jackson Free Press as well as the Mississippi Link, which developer and political power player Socrates Garrett owns.
Sales orders for Cochran’s candidate fundraising committee, Citizens for Cochran, were not found in Jackson’s black radio station's political public files. The committee did, however, run ads in The Clarion-Ledger and distribute doorknob hangers in whiter parts of Jackson touting Cochran's 100-plus votes against Obamacare and his support of the National Rifle Association.
Federal law permits super PACs to raise and spend unlimited sums of money, but they cannot give directly to candidates' fundraising committees nor coordinate with campaigns and must report their activities each month or quarter.
For any expenditures over $1,000—such as the thousands the PAC spent on radio advertising—from June 4 though June 23, Crudup's PAC was also required to file 24-hour reports with the FEC so the information is transparent to voters. A search of federal campaign-finance records yields no filings by All Citizens for Mississippi. Federal law requires the PAC to file a report with the FEC by July 15, detailing all donors to the PAC. The paperwork to set up the PAC, signed by Vann, indicated that it was filled out May 30, 2014, and not received and stamped by the FEC on June 6.
However, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which raises money to help elect and retain Republicans in the U.S. Senate, reported paying out $175,000 to National Media Research, Planning & Placement.
“Nobody’s seen any ads from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Nobody’s heard any ads,” said Shaftan, the pollster who appeared the AFA radio show, implying that the money was funneled elsewhere.
The JFP has found no advertisements in Mississippi that have been attributed the NRSC or the media-buying firm they gave money to. Checks from American Media Advocacy Group, signed by Ferrell, to Jackson’s radio stations show the same Alexandria, Va., address as National Media Research Planning & Placement.
Crudup, who has not returned calls, told The Clarion-Ledger's Jimmie Gates Wednesday that he raised close to $200,000, which was spent mostly on campaign ads for the Senate race run-off. Crudup, told Gates that the super PAC and his church are separate entities, despite the fact that the address listed on ACM’s FEC filings and on its advertising checks is the same as New Horizon, as the Jackson Free Press reported earlier in the week. The church's chief financial officer Jacqueline Vann is also listed as the super PAC’s treasurer and signed the PAC's advertising checks. She also lists a New Horizon email address on the group's FEC statement of organization.
Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel with the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center said the law prohibits tax-exempt organizations like churches to intervene in political elections. “By and large c(3) organizations are not allowed to be involved in super PACs,” Ryan said.
Individuals, like Bishop Crudup, can participate in super PACs as long as they do not use resources from churches and nonprofits. The fact that ACM and New Horizon share an address “may very well constitute use of church resources,” depending on how the space is used, Ryan said.
Crudup told The Clarion-Ledger that his church owns and operates a shopping center that rents to privates businesses and organizations, including All Citizens for Mississippi.
The Republican National Committee is under fire for similar allegations regarding their involvement in racially charged advertisements surrounding the Mississippi Senate race. Ed Martin, the GOP chair in Missouri, is apparently concerned that Henry Barbour, nephew of former Governor Haley Barbour, may be behind three radio ads that were reported by three radio ads that were reported by Britain's Daily Mail. One of the ads, paid for by Citizens for Progress, reportedly linked McDaniel to the Ku Klux Klan.
The Daily Mail reported that Mitzi Bickers, an Atlanta pastor, had used this same group name previously. In the current Senate race here, Mississippi Conservatives—a super PAC created by Haley Barbour and run by his nephew, Henry Barbour—paid her for political work. The younger Barbour told the Daily Mail he didn't know about the radio ads, although he acknowledged hiring Bickers to run a robocall campaign in the Cochran-McDaniel runoff.
The Jackson Free Press reported earlier this year that Bickers also contributed $4,000 to the election campaign of current Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber. She had resigned as a senior aide to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in 2013 after she was accused of filing false financial disclosures about her political projects.
Multiple attempts by the Jackson Free Press to reach Bishop Crudup have been unsuccessful. Contacted Wednesday, Vann—All Citizens for Mississippi's treasurer and New Horizon's chief financial officer—refused to provide the Jackson Free Press with a list of donors. A subsequent call to Vann was not returned; the Jackson Free Press has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Vann for the donor list.
Calls to National Media were not returned.
Email investigative reporter Anna Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 601-362-6121 extension 20.
Also see: Anna Wolfe goes to find the All Citizens for Mississippi office at New Horizon Church—and blogs about it.