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Josh Mandel in 2012. Photo: Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

A prominent political consulting firm is buying ads for both Republican Josh Mandel's Ohio Senate campaign and a new pro-Mandel super PAC required by law to operate independently of the campaign, records show.

Why it matters: Campaigns and super PACs can employ the same vendor as long as its work for each remains entirely separate. But that overlap in the pro-Mandel effort shows a tight connection to this new, ostensibly independent group.

What's new: The super PAC, dubbed the USA Freedom Fund, announced Friday it will buy a round of TV ads during the Kentucky Derby backing Mandel and attacking his GOP primary opponents.

  • That announcement came in a press release from the firm Axiom Strategies, which is serving as the Mandel campaign's ad buyer by way of a subsidiary called AxMedia.
  • The USA Freedom Fund reported paying a firm called Armada Strategies to place its ads. That firm's address is a Florida post office box. Its website is inactive, and its Delaware corporate records don't list any officers.
  • In Federal Communications Commission filings, though, the super PAC lists Armada's point of contact as a consultant named Sarah Blue. Blue is a senior media buyer at Axiom's AxMedia subsidiary.

Between the lines: Vendors must establish firewalls between their work for federal political campaigns and allied super PACs, in order to stay on the right side of laws barring candidates from coordinating with supportive independent groups.

  • "We do have an internal firewall," Axiom vice president Robert Uithoven said in an email. He did not immediately respond to requests for more detailed information.
  • Such vendor overlap has led to allegations of improper politicking by other high-profile political groups.

The big picture: Mandel, a former Ohio state treasurer, is competing in a competitive Republican primary where deep-pocketed independent spenders are already starting to emerge.

  • One of his opponents, “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance, enjoys the backing of a super PAC financed by millions from prominent tech executive Peter Thiel.
  • Another opponent, former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken, loaned her own campaign $1 million during the first quarter of the year.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.