Harwell campaign and PAC, accused of improper coordination, using same ad company

House Speaker Beth Harwell’s gubernatorial campaign and her political action committee – facing a complaint alleging they have illegally coordinated political activities – have been using the same company for advertising expenditures, reports The Tennessean – citing campaign finance reports.

Listed among the $117,000 in expenditures Harwell, R-Nashville, made during the first three months of the year is a $30,000 payment March 14 to Ohio-based company Strategic Media Placement for “communications.”

That same day, Tennesseans for Good State Government — which until December was known as Harwell PAC — made a $20,000 payment to Strategic Media Group Inc. for “video/production.”

The PAC’s latest disclosures show it paid the company a total of $637,000.

Strategic Media Groups conceptualizes and creates political ads, and its subsidiary Strategic Media Placement gets the ads on television stations. Both companies share the same Delaware, Ohio, address.

Last month, when campaign finance officials received a complaint filed about TV ads funded by the PAC, legal adviser Austin McMullen said because the 30-second spot did not advocate for a candidate, it is “not subject to the restrictions associated with coordination.”

The ad touted Harwell as speaker, not her bid for governor.

…In her complaint, conservative activist Sharon Ford argued that since Harwell appeared in the ad, it should be considered a coordinated expenditure.

… On Friday, McMullen denied there was any coordination between the PAC and Harwell, while noting the law does not restrict such practices.

“All activities of Tennesseans for Good State Government are legal,” he said in an email.

“State and federal law recognize the First Amendment freedom of speech without limitation, as long as the speech does not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.”

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