B-roll from Berger campaign turns up in super PAC TV spot

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For virtually as long as YouTube has been around, political campaigns have used it as an additional platform to retail 30-minute TV spots. It’s a way to test messages and extend the reach of a traditional television-advertising buy. Candidates have also used YouTube to share footage of campaign kickoffs, endorsement announcements and debates that highlight a particular point of emphasis.

But the posting of almost five minutes of B-roll by the congressional campaign of Republican Phil Berger Jr. is an interesting tack.

The footage, which appears to have been shot by a professional film crew runs without any audio, showing the candidate in a variety of flattering scenes — (1) speaking at a public meeting, (2) seated at a table in a work meeting, (3) briskly walking down the corridor of a public building clutching a case file and speaking with a subordinate, (4) sitting at his desk and writing on a legal pad with a pile of case files nearby, (5) speaking at his campaign kickoff, (6) walking in his yard with his wife and two sons, (7) helping his sons with homework, (8) posing in front of the Greensboro skyline, (9) passing a footbal with his sons and (10) teaching his sons how to shoot a rifle.

A 30-second television spot produced by the Keep Conservatives United super PAC contains at least six images that were evidently repurposed from the B-roll posted by the Berger Jr. campaign, including footage of the candidate helping his sons with their homework, speaking in a public meeting, seated at a table in a work meeting, speaking at his campaign kickoff and standing in front of the Greensboro skyline.

Federal election rules prohibit candidates from coordinating with so-called “super PACs,” which are allowed to accept unlimited contributions from donors. In contrast, the rules place spending limits on contributions to the campaigns of individual candidates.

Gillum Ferguson, communications director for the Berger Jr. campaign, said the public posting of the B-roll violates neither the letter nor the spirit of federal election rules.

“The use of the B-roll that we put on our YouTube channel is available for any party to use if they choose to do so,” he said.

He said the purpose of publicly posting the B-roll is to allow voters “to see Phil in a number of different exercises and learn more about the campaign.”

Relatively tame by the standards of this election — Berger Jr. and Mark Walker are in a runoff for the Republican nomination for the 6th Congressional district — the spot produced by Keep Conservatives United uses standard comparative campaigning techniques without mentioning the name of Berger Jr.’s opponent. A narrator repeats the phrase “the only one,” with the ad highlighting Berger’s pledge to not raise taxes, his stance on illegal immigration, support from gun rights groups and his position on the Affordable Care Act.

Since the beginning of the year Keep Conservatives United has raised at least $128,750, according to a report filed with the Federal Elections Commission — spent solely on media buys in support of Berger or against his Republican opponents.

The super PAC received a $50,000 contribution from Robert L. Luddy, CEO of Captive Aire Systems in Raleigh, and $35,000 from Steve A. Wordsworth, a vice president of MBM in Rocky Mount.

In comparison, the Berger Jr. campaign has reported $269,636 in receipts through April 16 — all in denominations no greater than $2,600.

Ferguson said it’s not uncommon for campaigns, Republican and Democratic, to post B-roll of their candidates, but review of a handful of campaign websites and YouTube channels by Triad City Beat — including those of the two other candidates in the 6th Congressional District — failed to turn up any comparable material.