Republican J.D. Hayworth has announced that he plans to file a federal elections law complaint against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic challenger Harry Mitchell.
A new television commercial by the Washington-based Democratic committee is a “clear violation” of election laws that bar candidates’ campaigns from having any material involvement in the content of the ad funded by outside interests, Hayworth said.
But a spokeswoman for the committee and a spokesman for Mitchell said Hayworth’s claim is baseless.
“If this is J.D.’s November surprise, he’s going to be totally disappointed,” said Mitchell’s aide, Seth Scott.
The commercial, which Hayworth showed during a news conference at the Arizona Republican Party headquarters in Phoenix on Wednesday, features footage of Mitchell talking to people in a neighborhood setting and inside a house.
The footage was either shot by the Mitchell campaign and provided to the Democratic committee, or the committee just happened to have a cameraman present when Mitchell stopped by someone’s house, said GOP attorney Tim Casey.
The footage is obviously staged, and there are tell-tale signs that the Mitchell campaign and the committee cooperated, Casey said.
“Who was the cameraman? How did he know where to show up? How was he invited into the home? What was told to the people in the home about who the cameraman was or was working for?” Casey asked.
Casey himself never asked anyone in the Mitchell campaign any of those questions before Hayworth’s campaign finance attorney in Washington prepared the complaint.
Scott told the Tribune Mitchell’s campaign arranged to have the footage shot some time ago and put it on an Internet server, making it available to anyone.
The same footage is included in an ad released Wednesday by the Mitchell campaign.
Democratic committee spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said the organization’s staffers are familiar with federal campaign regulations and that the commercial is perfectly legal. She declined to specify how the committee obtained the footage of Mitchell.
Hayworth’s Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell said she was assembling the formal complaint to the Federal Election Commission on Thursday.
The penalty for violations of the type suggested by Hayworth generally is a fine, said the attorney, unrelated to Harry Mitchell.