Third complaint filed over TV ad financed by Harwell’s PAC

Nashville conservative activist Sharon Ford has filed a third complaint against Beth Harwell’s gubernatorial campaign involving the House Speaker’s political action committee running a TV ad that praises Harwell’s leadership in the legislature, reports Nashville Post.

As with the two earlier complaints filed with the Registry of Election Finance, she contends that Tennesseans for Good Government, formerly known as Harwell PAC, clearly made the ad, entitled “The Signs Are Everywhere,” “with direction cooperation, consultation and in concert with” Harwell.

“Since Beth Harwell was in the ad, she participated in the preparation of the campaign materials and their broadcast would be a coordinated expenditure by HARWELL’S PAC as defined by law,” Ford writes.

Austin McMullen, the PAC’s legal advisor, told The Tennessean he thinks the complaint will be dismissed because the ad does not advocate for a candidate, per se, so it is “not subject to the restrictions associated with coordination.”

“The issue ad highlights Beth Harwell’s clear record of success and continuing leadership of the Tennessee General Assembly to implement conservative reform,” McMullen said. “This is an appropriate and authorized subject for advertisements by Tennesseans for Good State Government.”

But Ford’s complaint says that since Harwell is an announced candidate for governor, even though that isn’t mentioned in the ad, she is a clearly identified candidate, per state law. Ford also notes that the FCC filings for the ads mention “Tennessee Governor Race,” as the Post reported last week. She says the entire $327,500 ad buy should count as an illegal in-kind contribution.

The complaints makes no mention of an email earlier this week sent by Harwell’s campaign that prominently highlights the PAC ad, which has raised more eyebrows in the political community. Meanwhile, the PAC has purchased another $44,515 in airtime over the next two weeks in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis.

Note: A copy of complaint No. 3 is HERE.

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