Mary Landrieu video flap could be sign of things to come in Senate campaign
One of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's recent campaign videos included a three-second clip of footage that Republicans said shouldn't be used in political advertising.
Julia O'Donoghue, NOLA.com
on January 06, 2014 at 4:50 PM,
The Republican Party of Louisiana has filed a formal complaint about a three-second clip in one of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's recent campaign videos, a sign of the type of scrutiny in the high-profile, and contentious, U.S. Senate race in Louisiana this year.
A few seconds of the campaign advertisement came from a lengthy recording of a news conference Landrieu gave in her capacity as a member of the U.S. Congress. Her Senate office staff was involved in the production of the news conference video, so Republicans have argued that Landrieu inappropriately used government-funded resources for that portion of the campaign video.
The Landrieu campaign has said a third party inadvertently used the news conference footage in her election advertisement. The clip will be removed and replaced with something else, a campaign official said.
"Sen. Landrieu's official office was not involved in the production of this ad," said Andrew Sullivan, Landrieu's campaign manager.
Though Republicans have tried to make this into a significant ethical issue, an expert said it is a relatively minor violation. "Is it a 'set-your-hair-on-fire' violation? No," said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that examines government ethics and elections in Washington D.C. "I don't find this necessarily egregious."
Still, Jason Dore, executive director of the Republican Party of Louisiana, sent the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics a letter on Dec. 18 asking committee members to look into Landrieu's video clip.
"The official footage included in Senator Landrieu's campaign ad was recorded by employees compensated by the United States government and posted on the senator's official YouTube account by a member of her staff also compensated with taxpayer funds. As such, the senator's use of official footage for campaign purposes is a clear violation of the federal law," Dore wrote.
It's fairly important that a separation remain between a senator's government-funded staff and campaign employees, so taxpayers are not subsidizing an election effort they don't support.
"If it is taxpayer-funded time or equipment, that's a problem. That is why it is appropriate for the ethics committee to ask the question and get the answer," McGehee said.
That three seconds of an advertisement has warranted this much attention is probably a sign of what's to come in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race. Landrieu, the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Louisiana, is a top target for the national Republican Party, and even a minor mishap could become national news.
"There is always an election context that hangs over these types of complaints. I think we need to be very aware of that," McGehee said.
Landrieu's campaign advertisement that prompted the Republicans' complaint: