COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Republican Party has asked three Columbus television stations to take down an Allison Russo for Congress television attack ad against GOP opponent Mike Carey, alleging the ad violates Federal Election Commission and Federal Communications Commission rules.
The GOP party’s defense of rookie candidate Mike Carey comes just a few days before the special election in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District determines who finishes out the term of Republican Steve Stivers, a 10-term congressman who resigned in May.
Ohio GOP Executive Director Justin Bis sent the letter to the stations electronically on Tuesday charging the television ad that had just been released for airing on WBNS-TV, WSYX/WTTE and WCMH failed to adhere to strict federal rules on the placement and length of campaign identification for broadcast political ads, including a requirement for a candidate photo and campaign identification tagline lasting at least four seconds at the end of the ad.
“The candidate (Russo) does not appear on screen in her political ad for more than four seconds,” Bis’ letter said.
“She appears at the beginning of the political ad for almost three seconds and there is no ‘clearly identifiable photographic or similar image of the candidate'” per Sec. 315 of the FEC law, Bis wrote. “Additionally, there is no mention of who the candidate is at the end of the campaign ad, which is required by statute.”
The letter also said those violations mean the Russo campaign cannot receive the “Lowest Unit Rate advantage” pricing broadcasters give compliant political candidates and the ad “must be pulled from the airwaves until the political advertisement and disclaimer follow current FEC laws.”
At press time, the ads were still on the air.
“We are reviewing the complaint and seeking clarification,” wrote Tony D’Angelo, general manager of WSYX and WTTE, the ABC and Fox affiliates, respectively, in the Columbus market.
John Cardenas, general manager of CBS affiliate WBNS-TV, and Ken Freedman, general manager of NBC affiliate WCMH, did not return emails seeking comment before the deadline.
The Russo campaign did not directly comment on the legal argument of the Ohio GOP’s complaint.
Instead, its response sent to The Ohio Star reiterated the tone of the Russo ad that attempts to link Carey, a state coal industry and American Consolidated Natural Resources Inc. lobbyist, to the House Bill 6 public corruption scandal that has embroiled the Statehouse since July 2020.
Specifically, the ad attempts to tie Carey to disgraced ex-Ohio Speaker Larry Householder, who federal investigators have charged created a network of “dark money” entities allowing him and others to allegedly bribe the campaigns of Ohio House members in return for their support of his effort to become speaker again.
“Lobbyist Mike Carey already pulled this said stunt before – trying to use lawyers to cover up his shady past – and it failed,” said a Russo statement sent to The Star, referring to a similar late September ad the Carey campaign had complained about. “Ohioans are tired of shady lobbyists and scandal.
However, a WCMH NBC4 news operation challenged the Russo campaign’s contention of Carey’s alleged involvement in the Householder scheme in a news story posted online on October 21.
While noting Carey’s job as a coal industry lobbyist, the television report said the earlier ad “offers no hard evidence of (Carey’s) direct hand” in the scandal and concluding “the claim in Russo’s ad is misleading.”
Carey campaign manager Blaine Kelly, in a text to The Star, said, “Neither the company nor the candidate have been implicated in the (HB6) investigation. (Russo’s) allegation is a lie.”
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