Legislative staffers used as extras in lawmaker's re-election ad

Posted March 15, 2012

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— Election watchdogs are questioning a campaign ad for longtime Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, which uses the House chamber and legislative aides as a backdrop.

Crawford faces a primary challenge in May after he and Rep. Winkie Wilkins, D-Person, were drawn into the same district in new voting maps. So, Crawford produced his first television ad in 20 years.

The spot shows him speaking on the House floor, with several people seated at lawmakers' desks behind him, as if he were engaged in a floor debate. The "lawmakers" behind him are legislative aides, reportedly rounded up by Crawford's legislative assistant Linda WInstead to help with the video shoot.  

Legislative staffers Gennie Thurlow and Cindy Hobbs said Thursday that they were on the clock during the video shoot, but added that there was no intention to break any rules. They said they were just trying to help out. 

"You cannot use state employees in a political commercial. Those people need to file time sheets that show them off the clock, and if they lost income, Rep. Crawford or his campaign should be compensating them," said Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.

Crawford said it was simply an oversight, saying he didn't think the legislative aides were on the clock at the time.

"We just needed some people to sit in," he said.

"It's one more case where elected officials need to be careful because it makes people suspicious when they realize somebody's taking advantage of their office," Pinsky said. "The last thing we want is to do anything that undermines people's confidence in this institution."

Jim Crawford campaign ad image Lawmaker says no harm intended in making of campaign ad

Jordan Shaw, a spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis, said no ethics investigation is planned at this time. But, he said, it's a complaint-driven process. "If an official complaint is filed on this matter, then it will be given the same treatment as every other complaint," Shaw explained.

Pinsky also said she couldn't remember the House or Senate chamber ever being used as a set for a campaign ad. Although it's not illegal, she said, taxpayers wouldn't have the same access.

"I don't think it's appropriate simply because it's using the power of the office one step beyond the seal," she said.

Crawford said it's no different than using news footage of an actual House session for a campaign ad.

"I didn't know there was anything wrong with it, if there was," he said.

Tillis didn't know Crawford had used the chamber for an ad, Shaw said, but no permission was needed because House members have access to the chamber floor at all times.


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  • driverkid3 Mar 16, 2012

    Of all the actual corruption in the state, this is what we are going to harp on? Aids sat in the background for a 30 second tv spot?

    Had this been a republican, people would be screaming at the top of their lungs about corruption.

  • ConcernedNCC Mar 16, 2012

    Pinsky said. "The last thing we want is to do anything that undermines people's confidence in this institution."
    Anybody out there still have any confidence in the institution?..Anybody?..

  • catgirl Mar 16, 2012

    This is ridiculous. The whole thing probably took 10 minutes and certainly isn't woth this uproar. If he had asked WRAL for "floor footage" for a political ad, WRAL wqould probably have made a story out of that.

    Is this all this left-leaning non profit watch dog group has to do? Why don't they watch all the dead Democrats vote on election day and then tell us we don't need voter ID. Yeesch !

  • joeblink Mar 16, 2012

    One more example (however well intentioned this politician is) as to why we need term limits on EVERY elected position at EVERY level of government. "longtime Rep." should be an oxymoron. Even semi-pro politicians who are "longtime" in a slot start assuming all the wrong things!

  • pbjbeach Mar 16, 2012

    In my personal opinion there is a deep need for a lot more oversight of state government an every state agency that exist within the entire state government. in order to put a complete end to the waste fraud an abusive practices that go on an most especially in the areas of the handleing an the terminations of state career designeated personal for theior mearly attempting to do their jobs but due to the fact that the republicans are currently running the nc legisture an they are only seeking to be pro -business an anti-labor to the public sector( theyarent actually allowing for state employees to be allowed to do otheir jobs dutys ) that would allow them to have some form of enforcement an accountablility from the companys an coporations that actual do daily business with these various state government agencys simply because of the totaly deregulatory atmosphere that exiist to in the nc legisture where that they would allow mangers to allow their subordinate personnel to do their jobs

  • ASU Mar 16, 2012

    This is not news

  • kitelover110 Mar 16, 2012

    I have known Jim almost all of my life and can unequivically attest to his honesty and integrety. I am sure that neiyher he nor Linda intentionally did anything wrong in producing the ad. And I do know that Jim is well aware of how the "rest of us live" because I remind him constantly (LOL) and he remains in constant touch whith his constitutants and is always available for them.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 16, 2012

    What is that phrase you would hear, ignorance of the law is no excuse. I sure wish we could be rid of all of the lifer politicians. I wonder how many debt ceiling increases he helped move through the goal posts.

  • jacamillo Mar 16, 2012

    Who cares?

  • cam7002 Mar 16, 2012

    Yeah, just an oversight, eh? I would call it a sense of entitlement common among the ruling class.