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How to facilitate an honest, and influential Independent Expenditure campaign without playing dirty 

Throughout every campaign season, voters are exposed to countless, dozens (or hundreds!) of election cycle advertising. From television and radio to social media and mailers, campaign ads are seemingly everywhere and then abruptly gone on election day.   

What may be less obvious to voters are what are known as independent expenditure (IE) campaigns that are conducted as a third-party political arm – often on behalf of organizations, including industry and trade associations. Many people are more acquainted with IE’s than they may think- knowing them as super PAC campaigns, or third party dark money groups.  

IE efforts are supposed to be a tool for organizations to participate in election cycles while simultaneously encouraging voters to vote for what is important to them. These ‘third party dark money groups,’ however, are notoriously negative- their tactics rooted in attacks on other candidates and the spreading of misinformation.  

At Sinclair, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In short- IEs effect change behind the scenes by highlighting and addressing crucial industry needs, and helping their organizations cut through the clutter. Partnering with our clients, Sinclair throws a wrench in this negative perception by disseminating positive media that focuses on what these candidates have done for their constituents- highlighting specific and important voter interests.  

How do we do this in IE campaigns? We tell the stories of those we represent- honestly and strategically. We use a sophisticated process through survey research and polling to determine what is important to voters- this year it was all things pandemic related. (No surprise there!) 

In a noisy 2020 General Election campaign season, Sinclair PA facilitated an IE campaign for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in key national Congressional races. The credit union industry endorsed various incumbents that openly support important credit union initiatives by highlighting the positive outcomes these incumbents generated for their constituents.  

For this IE campaign, our client was CUNA, not candidates for political office. The goal was to shape perception by sharing accomplishments that support key credit union initiatives, highlight relevant voter interests, and encourage voter participation.  

For CUNA’s endorsed incumbents, Sinclair PA utilized an array of communications tools to break through the noise- including direct mail, digital ads, and videos. The campaigns were each executed on a low budget, yet proved highly successful- relying solely on strategy and positive narratives.  

CUNA told stories that incorporated legislative pandemic response as a focal point in these races- strategically highlighting legislation driven by these candidates to support their constituents during unprecedented times. These stories helped inform voters about issues and legislation they may not have been aware of and how the credit union industry helps facilitate this important support:  


For Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Sinclair PA designed her digital ads and direct mail pieces to highlight her existing pandemic initiatives- such as laws that helped small businesses keep their employees, protected senior citizens against financial scams, and ensured food banks could continue to feed her constituents during the pandemic. Sen. Collins’ video ads highlighted both her personal pandemic initiatives as well as CUNA’s pandemic initiatives. Sen. Collins won her race with over 50% of the vote.  

Direct Mail Example 

Digital Ad Examples 

Video Example 


For Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, the same tactics proved just as successful. Rep. Davis’s mailers, digital ads, and videos, however, also openly advertised his credit union support. By highlighting his policy support for credit unions- Sinclair PA was able to tell a story that depicted Davis as a candidate that will always help families through the pandemic. Rep. Davis won his race with over 54% of the vote.  

Direct Mail Example 

Digital Ad Examples 

Video Ad Example 


  • For Senator Steve Daines of Montana, Sinclair utilized his unique state and district to build his narrative and effectively tell his story in his mailers, digital ads, and videos. For example; Sen. Daines worked to pass the Great American Outdoors Act to ensure the protection of public lands. This initiative allowed for accompanying graphics of Montana that made his media pieces unique and visually appealing, ultimately garnering the attention of voters. Sinclair PA ensured that each candidate’s mailers and digital ads reflected not only their political initiatives, but who they are as individuals. Sen. Daines won his race with over 54% of the vote.  

Direct Mail Example 

Digital Ad Examples 

Video Ad Example 


While IE campaign strategies and tactics need to remain flexible, one factor never wavers. Sinclair always represents our clients and their chosen candidates honestly- to elicit substantial real world change and to ensure a fair race every time.  

All three of CUNA’s endorsed candidates represented by Sinclair PA won their respective General Election. An article in American Banker Magazine has concluded that CUNA may ultimately help Republicans regain control of the Senate in this election as a result of their IE efforts in the 2020 General Election. You can find the article here.  

This year, Sinclair Public Affairs has successfully executed numerous Independent Expenditure Campaigns on behalf of our corporate clients. If you are interested in updating your campaign efforts, our trained staff at Sinclair is here to help. Contact Sinclair Public Affairs at contact@sinclairpublicaffairs.com 

Kailey McSwain

Author Kailey McSwain

More posts by Kailey McSwain

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