A new independent expenditure ad in the 3rd Congressional District race says Scottie Mayfield is “good at ice cream, not so good on the issues.”
Mayfield campaign consultant Tommy Hopper, a former state Republican chairman, tells Chris Carroll that he thinks the ad sponsors got that line from Chip Saltsman, another former state GOP chief who is running the Chuck Fleischman campaign.
Coordination between the PAC running the ad and the Fleischmann campaign, of course, would violate federal campaign laws. Hopper suspects that’s what happened. Saltsman says not so.
“We simply do not believe that an out-of-state PAC with no known ties to Tennessee has any interest in our primary unless led here by one of our opponents,” Hopper said.
…Bankrolled by the Beaufort, S.C.-based Citizens for a Working America, the $165,000 ad campaign is the second time an independent, out-of-state political committee has spent money on the 3rd District primary.
Airing in Chattanooga and Knoxville broadcast markets, the anti-Mayfield ad includes an instrumental version of “Pop Goes the Weasel” and melting vanilla ice cream — direct hits on the dairy executive’s intelligence and political savvy.
“Scottie Mayfield: Good at ice cream, not so good on the issues,” the ad’s narrator concludes.
Mayfield’s advisers said recent remarks offered by Fleischmann chief of staff Chip Saltsman shed doubt on the campaign’s denials.
According to audio obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Saltsman, speaking for Fleischmann at a rally last week in Campbell County, said, “good ice cream, bad politics” in a rhetorical swipe against Mayfield.
“Chip’s comments are oddly similar to the overall theme of the ad,” Hopper said in an email, “and it’s a fact that the Fleischmann campaign plays fast and loose with the law and the facts.”
Saltsman laughed when greeted with Hopper’s allegation, adding that he has no ties to Citizens for a Working America.
“Don’t know them. But I’ve heard that comment about Mayfield having good milk or ice cream and bad politics or issues 100 times,” he said. “It’s something a lot of people say. A lot of people talk about it.”
The other independent expenditure came from the American Conservative Union, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that spent at least $30,000 on a July radio buy in support of Fleischmann.
Records show OnMessage Inc., an ad agency in Virginia, produced both ads.
Saltsman and OnMessage Inc. co-founder Brad Todd are Facebook friends, but the connections go beyond that. Saltsman was elected Tennessee Republican Party chairman in 1998, and Todd was the state party’s executive director in 1997-98, according to his LinkedIn page.
Todd did not return phone calls, but Saltsman said the two briefly worked together.
“He was at the party when I was elected, but I replaced him,” Saltsman said. Saltsman denied coordination and said he hasn’t spoken with Todd “since last winter.”
Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said it’s difficult to prove “coordination” even though the Federal Election Commission has subpoena power over such matters.
…A $475,000 ad buy for Mitt Romney in December 2011 is the only other expenditure Citizens for a Working America has ever made, records show. As of Thursday, the organization was listed as based in Dayton, Ohio, but on Friday that was changed to Beaufort, S.C.
Despite requests from the Federal Election Commission to do so, Citizens for a Working America has not disclosed its donors. Norm Cummings, a Virginia-based Republican political consultant whose name is on the organization’s filings, could not be reached for comment.