Friday, December 13, 2013
The Maine Republican Party has issued a second challenge to a television ad by independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King.
The party alleged Wednesday that King's campaign violated the "stand by your ad" requirement that candidates state orally and in writing that they approve an ad's message.
The Republican Party claims in a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission that King did not provide the written approval.
In the ad, King says, "I'm Angus King, and I approve this message." However, the statement doesn't appear in fine print at the end of the 30-second spot.
Last week, the Republican Party questioned whether King's campaign had illegally used the Google Earth logo at the beginning of the spot. The campaign later produced a licensing contract that showed the logo was used legally.
The Republican Party says it is confident that King violated the "stand by your ad" law. The King camp, meanwhile, said its legal team has reviewed the ad and believes it complied "with the spirit of the law."
The provision, adopted in the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act, is designed to discourage candidates from engaging in anonymous attacks against their opponents.
Paul S. Ryan, senior legal counsel with the Campaign Legal Center, a national campaign transparency group, said the absence of a written approval statement appeared to be an "innocent mistake" by an "unsophisticated campaign."
"Having the candidate comply with the oral statement yet not the written statement indicates to me that the candidate wasn't attempting to hide" from the ad, Ryan said. "In the grand scheme of things, this is not a major violation. I would rank it very low.
"This sounds like an innocent mistake, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be enforced," said Ryan, who anticipated "a minimal fine."
Carmen Gray, a spokeswoman for the Federal Election Commission, acknowledged that the commission had received the Maine Republican Party's complaint.
Gray said she is not permitted to comment on potential penalties until the case is closed.
That could take some time. FEC enforcement guidelines give King 15 days to respond formally.
Published reports and FEC documents show the penalty for violating the "stand by your ad" requirement is designed to be punitive but it appears to be infrequently enforced.
According to FEC guidelines, a first-time offense could cost a campaign the reduced political ad rate it receives during election season. However, that is left to the discretion of television station managers.
In 2008, Republican Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Gordon Smith of Oregon, Virginia challenger James S. Gilmore III and Colorado candidate Bob Schaffer were all accused of violating the provision.
In Coleman's case, Democrat Al Franken's campaign charged that his Republican opponent's on-screen endorsement was two seconds shorter than the four-second requirement.
A similar complaint was brought in 2006 against former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. However, the FEC did not make the television stations raise ad rates.
The ad issue is the latest round between the King campaign and Republican candidate Charlie Summers.
On Monday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced that it was spending $600,000 for television ads that will either attack King or support Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill. Summers, trailing King in the most recent polls, needs Dill to perform better to split the progressive vote.
The ad buy marks the third time a third-party Republican group has tried to influence a race that national pundits believe could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
King's campaign lashed out at the ad buy on Wednesday.
"The bigger confusion in this campaign is around why the National Republican Senatorial Committee is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote the Democratic candidate," said Crystal Canney, King's spokeswoman.
Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen said the King campaign should immediately take down its television ad and apologize "for neglecting the very laws he says are so important for clean and fair elections."
He said, "I sincerely hope that this was incompetence on Angus King's part and not an intentional avoidance of election laws."
Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791- 6345 or at: