Dark money group runs ad blitz against Trump week before election

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One as he departs Miami for campaign travel to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, U.S., November 2, 2020.

Carlos Barrai | Reuters

A little-known dark money group has quietly spent almost half a million dollars on digital ads against an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in the buildup to Election Day.

The ad spending spree came from a group called A Healthy Future, which has spent over $400,000 on Google, YouTube and Facebook ads over at least the past 10 days.

The group is taking aim at Trump’s executive order intended to lower prescription drug prices. The order was signed by the president in September.

One of the ads argues that the executive order could impact the development and pricing of an eventual coronavirus vaccine.

“America needs a cure for Covid-19 now and innovative biopharmaceutical companies are rising to the challenge. So why is President Trump risking American lives with dangerous executive orders?” the voiceover in the ad says.

Trump has been under scrutiny since March of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Over 230,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

There’s very little available information about who runs or funds A Healthy Future. The group’s Facebook page says it is a nonprofit organization. Its website has no contact information or names of organizers. CNBC attempted to reach out to the organization over Twitter but no one responded. Its Twitter account only follows two people.

The front page of its website says, “Call President Trump or sign up today to tell him to stop the most favored nation policy that jeopardizes treatments and future vaccines that would save American lives.” It then gives a number for the White House switchboard.

The website suggests the group supports a libertarian economic ethos.

“Price-control approaches have a history of causing more harm than good. When the government dictates how much we should pay for our prescriptions, not only does the taxpayer bear the brunt of that change but American patients suffer as well,” the website says under its issues section.

The group’s Google and YouTube ads started appearing Oct. 22 and were active through Saturday, according to Google’s ad archive. The Facebook ads were launched on Oct. 22 and remain active.

The areas targeted include regions of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York and Washington, D.C. Pennsylvania is a key state for Trump’s bid for reelection. Polls of the state have shown a tight race between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Data from Google shows that A Healthy Future spent between $1,000 and $50,000 on a YouTube ad that focused on areas in and around Philadelphia. It made between 100,000 and 1 million impressions. The organization spent over $100,000 targeting people in Washington, D.C. That ad, Google says, made over 10 million impressions. One of the group’s 30 second YouTube ads has over 2 million views.

Facebook’s ad archive estimates that the group invested between over $30,000 and $40,000 on the recent spots seen on the social media platform.

The name of the group matches an LLC registered in Ohio. The registration certificate lists an attorney named James Ryan as the group’s statutory agent. Ryan did not return a request for comment before publication.

The registration form says it was established in 2018 and are, in fact, a nonprofit.

A review of its few previous Facebook ads shows it had previously never mentioned Trump.

Dark money groups, which do not publicly disclose their donors, combined to spend nearly $20 million on Facebook and Google ads throughout the 2020 campaign, according to a study by the Wesleyan Media Project.

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