Barr donor files FEC complaint against Chandler and super PAC

06/26/2012 04:05 PM

A former assistant U.S. attorney and a donor to Andy Barr filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler’s campaign and Patriot Majority USA — an independent expenditure group that recently ran an ad supporting Chandler.

The complaint filed by Lexington lawyer Mark A. Wohlander alleges that Chandler, Chandler’s re-election committee and Patriot Majority USA violated FEC regulations prohibiting campaigns from coordinating with independent expenditure groups.

Pure Politics reported last week on Patriot Majority USA’s ad that began running June 18th and includes a few shots of Chandler with voters — footage that appeared in Chandler’s own campaign ads in 2010.

The founder of the Patriot Majority USA group has denied any coordination and has pointed to previous FEC rulings as support.

Here’s the ad:

Wohlander, who opened his own law firm in 2010, served as senior assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky from 1990 to 2007. Wohlander made a small campaign contribution to Andy Barr, Chandler’s Republican challenger in this election cycle. Wohlander has made several campaign contributions to Republican Mitt Romney’s Presidential bid.

Wohlander argued in his complaint that the ad is evidence of coordination because it uses footage from one of Chandler’s campaign ads, footage that was uploaded on the web recently.

“This clearly meets the content standard addressing dissemination, distribution, or republication of materials prepared by a candidates authorized committee,” Wohlander’s complaint says. “The Committee put its footage up on the internet. The footage was posted on the Committee’s website for less than 24 hours, and 5 days later, Patriot Majority USA began airing an advertisement using the same footage.”

Craig Varoga, president of Patriot Majority USA, said the ad backing Chandler is one of several “nonpartisan ads” around the country that are almost identical. The Kentucky ad used a small amount of publicly available footage that is still available at http://www.youtube.com/user/reelectbenchandler as part of a larger, independent ad.”

The YouTube page Varoga pointed to was created in 2010 and is active. The seven videos showing Chandler with voters — including ones seen in the Patriot Majority USA ad – were posted one week ago, according to the Youtube page. The most recent posts on that Youtube account before those seven clips was uploaded a year ago.

“We had zero contact or conversation with these elected officials, and the FEC has repeatedly dismissed complaints regarding the use of publicly available photos and footage. We stand by all of the ads 100 percent and clearly believe that this so-called complaint is nothing more than a nuisance letter designed to get press coverage and nothing more,” Varoga added.

Eric Nagy, a campaign manager for Congressman Ben Chandler, said the complaint of coordination with Patriot Majority USA by Wohlander is “baseless.”

“The claim by Mark Wohlander, a repeated contributor to Andy Barr, that the Chandler campaign coordinated with Patriot Majority PAC is utterly baseless. The clip in question was used in advertisements during the last cycle, and the Chandler campaign has no control over our content once it has aired, whether the context of that use is for or against our campaign. The bottom line is, the Chandler campaign has not coordinated with this or any other Super PAC in any capacity,” Nagy said in an emailed statement.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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