The campaign of Senate Democrat Mary Landrieu is being criticized for recreating a contentious Senate hearing for use in a tough new campaign ad.
But Landrieu campaign manager Adam Sullivan says the campaign recreated the scene because Senate Ethics Rules prohibit the use of footage from any government camera in political ads.
A part of the ad, spotted by the Weekly Standard and blasted out to reporters by Republican advocacy group America Rising, depicts Landrieu in a hearing room excoriating an unseen witness as part of what appears to be television coverage by an outlet labeled “Eye on Washington.” That’s the name of a segment on a Louisiana TV station but not an actual broadcast, and it’s not the original footage of the Louisiana senator – although she delivered almost the same lines in a June 23, 2013 hearing.
The Standing Orders of the Senate do, in fact, ban the use of official coverage for “political campaign purposes.” (see page 125 of this document)
“The use of any tape duplication of radio or television coverage of the proceedings of the Senate for political campaign purposes is strictly prohibited,” the document says.
The rules add that the prohibition also applies to public or commercial news organizations that are furnished recordings of official coverage; that is to say, even using a cable news rebroadcast of a hearing filmed by a government camera would be a violation.
Democrats also point out that a key interest group bombarding Landrieu with negative ads - the Koch brothers-affiliated Americans for Prosperity - has used paid actors in its television ads in the state. (Landrieu's team says the re-creation of the hearing used "volunteers.")
While the scene is recreated, the words uttered by Landrieu are very similar to those she said during a hearing on a measure to return revenues to energy-producing states, although she appeared to stumble over one word the first time around.
“They have to sit here and listen to the federal government say we can’t share a penny with you? I will not rest until this injustice is fixed,” she says in the ad version. In a similar shot, she asks “Do you think there are a bunch of fairy godmothers out there that just wave a magic wand?”
During a June 23, 2013 hearing on the FAIR Act, Landrieu said:
“How do you think that the oil and gas get into people’s tanks when they fill up at the gas station? Do you think there are a bunch of fairy godmothers out there that just wish (emphasis added) a magic wand? I tell you how it gets there: the poor people in Alaska, the poor people in south Louisiana that can’t get one penny to build a gravel road get up every day and walk to the shore and fly off in helicopters and ports and have to sit here and listen to the federal government say we can’t share a penny with you? I will not rest until this injustice is fixed.”
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring called the tactic "desperate."
"We're not sure that a United States Senator has ever done a dramatic reenactment of a floor speech or committee hearing for a television ad, but the old axiom of desperate times calling for desperate measures certainly applies in Mary Landrieu's case," he said. "The truth is that in this footage, Mary Landrieu is talking tough to an empty chair, not anyone in the Obama Administration."
Justin Barasky of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shot back: "I find it interesting that no one is challenging the substance of this ad," he said, noting Landrieu's record on energy issues.
NBC's Mark Murray contributed to this report.
First published April 15 2014, 10:54 AM