Democratic group's ads back Chandler over Medicare while using familiar footage

06/20/2012 11:20 AM

(UPDATED 5:31 p.m.) — The independent expenditure group Patriot Majority USA launched an ad this week supporting Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler’s re-election in the 6th District and features Medicare as a central theme.

The outside group’s 30-second ad that began running Monday also uses a few shots of Chandler with voters — footage that appeared in Chandler’s own campaign ads in 2010. The group purchased $43,375 in the Lexington market starting Monday, including more than $20,800 on WKYT Channel 27 in Lexington, according to ad purchase records.

Patriot Majority USA is an independent expenditure group that can run ads in support of or against candidates but cannot coordinate or communicate strategy. Patriot Majority USA was founded by Craig Varoga, a national Democratic consultant who spearheaded the outside group Bluegrass Freedom Fund that backed Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in 2007 and 2011.

Varoga pointed to a previous FEC decision that allows for the republication of campaign materials. He denied any coordination with Chandler’s campaign.

“Patriot Majority USA relied on a small amount of publicly available footage when crafting its multi-state advertising effort, without any coordination with with any political campaign, candidate or public official,” Varoga said. “The Federal Election Commission has repeatedly dismissed complaints regarding the use of publicly available photos and footage.”

Chandler faces Republican challenger Andy Barr in a rematch of the 2010 race. Barr has voiced support for Medicare reforms, including the proposal offered by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Chandler and other Democrats have argued that Ryan’s proposal would effectively end Medicare for future retirees by turning it into a voucher program. And the Patriot Majority USA ad echoes that:

This comes a week after the Chandler campaign posted several videos of stock footage showing Chandler campaigning and talking with constituents. The videos which contained no audio were spotted by Page One, which posted screen shots of some of the footage. The videos were removed and the account was deleted the next day.

The ending shot of the Patriot Majority USA ad shows Chandler talking with a group of people in a Central Kentucky city’s downtown. It matches one of the screen shots PageOne found.

The emergence of outside group’s ad containing similar footage of Chandler seems suspicious, one lawyer said.

“The practice raises serious questions of coordination between the Chandler campaign and people affiliated with the super PAC,” said Jason Nemes a Louisville lawyer who practices campaign law.

While someone can file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about the ad and potential of coordination, the FEC and courts have had difficulty in recent years in defining what actions actually constitute coordination and how to prove it.

- With additional reporting by Ryan Alessi

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm joined cn|2 in December 2011 as a reporter for Pure Politics. Throughout his career, Nick has covered several big political stories up close, including interviewing President Barack Obama on the campaign trail back in 2008. Nick says he loves being at the forefront of Kentucky politics and working with the brightest journalists in the commonwealth. Follow Nick on Twitter @Nick_Storm. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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