What's With This Video Of McConnell Doing Stuff? | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

What's With This Video Of McConnell Doing Stuff?

Play associated audio

The video uploaded to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell's YouTube channel on March 11 is no ordinary campaign ad:

The video lacks the narration or clear message of a television ad. Instead, it features stock footage of McConnell — who's up for re-election this year — going through what seems to be his day-to-day routine, signing papers, shaking hands, and sitting on a couch with his wife.

The video quickly became a meme online. Footage was dropped into the credits of '90s sitcoms Family Matters and Perfect Strangers. There was also a Daily Show callout for viewers to add music over the images of McConnell, launching the hashtag #McConnelling.

But there's a more serious use for this stock footage, or "b-roll": SuperPACs can use the images in ads about candidates.

Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, invites users to download similar videos from his campaign website. The file includes videos like "Franken reading to children," and "Franken walking with college students."

Candidates in North Carolina, Iowa and Alaska have put up similar footage, too.

"They're putting it out there because they can, because it's legal, because it's what all their competitors are going to be doing, and it's valuable," says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics.

She tells NPR's Kelly McEvers that the move can be traced back to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010. That ruling encouraged the growth of political groups like superPACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amount for or against candidates.

There's a catch: Outside groups and candidates often have very close ties, but they cannot legally coordinate with one another on messaging.

So campaigns can put out b-roll on their own sites, but they can't collaborate with superPACs on what the content should be or how it should be used, Krumholz says.

As long as the superPACs make some changes to the source material, "they could, in essence, put up virtually all of the information that the candidates have created," she says.

In fact, 10 days after McConnell's video became available, a group called the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition used the footage in its own advertisement.

Krumholz does not expect the Federal Election Commission to scrutinize the practice.

"They set the rules long ago, and I doubt those are going to change," she says, "despite the fact that political operatives and campaigns are really dealing with a new world order in campaign finance."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Puzzle Full Of Air

Every answer today is a word starting with the letters A-R, which you will identify from its anagram. For example, given AR plus ROB, the answer would be "arbor."
NPR

Will Environmentalists Fall For Faux Fish Made From Plants?

A handful of chefs and food companies are experimenting with fish-like alternatives to seafood. But the market is still a few steps behind plant-based products for meat and dairy.
NPR

A GOP Weekend, Courtesy Of The Koch Network And Citizens United

Contenders for the 2016 presidential race spoke at Saturday's Iowa Freedom Summit, and on Sunday night senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul will participate in a livestreamed discussion.
NPR

3 Voices, 1 Threat: Personal Stories Of Cyberhacking

In President Obama's State of the Union address, he gave fresh emphasis to a problem that has been in the headlines: cybersecurity. Here are three people who have experienced security breaches.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.