Wasted? Walker PAC Dropped $1.6 Million on Ads in Final Days

Unintimidated PAC Bought Direct Mail Three Days Before Candidate Left Race

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Scott Walker at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa earlier this year.
Scott Walker at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa earlier this year. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race on Sept. 21. Three days prior, the PAC backing him spent around $50,000 to send direct mail to Iowa voters. In fact, Unintimidated PAC spent more than $1.6 million on ads in September, some of which may be refunded, some of which may have paid for now-moot mail pieces.

"You might even see direct mail end up in people's mailboxes after [the candidate] pulled out," said Vinny Minchillo, principal of Republican political consultancy Glass House Strategy, and former media consultant for the Opportunity and Freedom PAC, which backed GOP hopeful Rick Perry until he ducked out of the race earlier this month.

Mr. Minchillo's consultancy was in post-production on an Opportunity and Freedom TV spot supporting Mr. Perry when the ex-Texas Governor announced his decision. "We were getting ready to ship it in a day or two," said Mr. Minchillo.

"That all happens with lightning speed," he said. Candidates typically make their decisions quickly to drop out from primaries, "and then it's like tearing off a Band-Aid."

Opportunity and Freedom spent around $244,000 on ads and media production in September before Mr. Perry ended his campaign, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

In some cases that money is refunded by media outlets. But TV stations in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states aren't necessarily hurting just because some candidates and their PACs have pulled out.

"This has been a windfall" for media outlets, said Mr. Minchillo, referring to the addition of ad dollars from Super PACs that outlets can charge market rates as opposed to the lower rates they're legally required to charge campaigns. It is unclear what has or will become of the Unintimidated PAC's September media buys made with Republican media firm SRCP Media, direct mail firm Persuasion Partners and others. The companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Either way, when candidates leave, their PACs often are left holding the donor money bag. In the case of Freedom and Opportunity PAC, there was "something on the order of $12 million in the bank," said Mr. Minchillo, noting "we arrived at the decision with the donors to give the money back."

Still, the PACs backing Mr. Perry and Mr. Walker may have a future purpose, he suggested. "Our PAC is still open," he said, noting Freedom and Opportunity may support another candidate down the road. "Our PAC is still organized and we're in business."

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