Highway 31 Super PAC
The Highway 31 Super PAC was a single-issue political action committee headed by Montgomery political strategist Adam Muhlendorf and Birmingham attorney Edward Still with a mailing address at the UPS Store at 429 Green Springs Highway. Its purpose was to support the campaign of Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election, primarily by distributing material criticizing his opponent, former judge Roy Moore. The group, which spent around $6 million, was named for U.S. Highway 31 which connects Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile.
The Super PAC contracted with Bully Pulpit Interactive and Waterfront Strategies of Washington, DC to produce and distribute print and broadcast advertisements. The ads focused on the allegations, reported by the Washington Post and Alabama Media Group, that Moore had engaged in improper sexual behavior with teenage girls while he was an Assistant District Attorney in Etowah County in the 1970s. Highway 31 Super PAC also spent $2 million to partner with BlackPAC to encourage voter turnout.
The PAC was founded late in the campaign, and reported liabilities of $1,154,844.31, with no actual income or expenses, in its initial financial filing to the Federal Election Commission covering the period up to November 22. The amount trailed the $5.4 million spent by Jones' campaign, but exceeded the reported ad spending by Moore or any other PAC. Because its next public filing would not be due until January 2018, the organization would not be required to reveal its donors before the December 12 election. Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center characterized the arrangement as a "shady scheme" to avoid disclosing its sources of funding. Eric Wang, a Republican campaign finance attorney who formerly worked at the Federal Election Commission, stated that such arrangements are not novel in political campaigns.
In early December, a video advertisement from Highway 31 was pulled off of YouTube.com and Google after complaints from Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill that the message, "Your vote is public record and your community will know whether or not you helped stop Roy Moore." was misleading. A voter's appearance at the polls is recorded, but not their ballot choices.
The day before the special elections, POLITICO cited sources identifying the Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA Action as backers of the Super PAC. That reporting was confirmed by Super PAC spokesman Chris Hayden in late December. Moore filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against Senate Majority PAC claiming that they implied in Highway 31 Super PAC's TV spot that he had solicited sex from a 14-year-old girl at the Gadsden Mall while he was working for the Etowah County District Attorney's Office. The woman's testimony was that she had met Moore at the mall when she was 14, but that he didn't ask her out for a date for another year or so, and that her mother did not give her permission to accept. In August 2022 a federal jury awarded Moore $8.2 million in damages.
- Scherer, Michael (December 1, 2017) "Democratic group attacks Roy Moore without disclosing donors." The Washington Post
- Markay, Lachlan (December 1, 2017) "The Super PAC Attacking Roy Moore Won’t Disclose Its Donors Before the Vote." The Daily Beast
- Gattis, Paul (December 6, 2017) "Anti-Roy Moore ad removed from You Tube after complaints." The Birmingham News
- Debrenedetti, Gabriel (December 11, 2017) "Secret super PAC backing Jones in Alabama exposed." POLITICO
- Chandler, Kim (December 27, 2017) "Senate Majority PAC backed Jones’ winning Alabama campaign." Associated Press
- "Roy Moore awarded $8.2 million, jury rules Democratic super PAC defamed him in 2017 Senate race." (August 12, 2022) Associated Press/The Birmingham News