Did a Democratic political group do more harm than good by putting together a television advertisement for Miami Congressman Joe Garcia?
Patriot Majority USA, a super-political action committee, released a pair of ads Monday for Garcia and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, praising them for opposing "the radical Tea Party agenda."
But the ad for Garcia has gotten noticed not because of its message -- but because it features a shot of Garcia with Steve Bateman, the former Homestead mayor facing criminal charges. Bateman has pleaded not guilty. (UPDATE: Patriot Majority says it will sub out the footage. The web version of the ad is no longer available, but a conservative super PAC has posted the B-roll here.)
Super PACs can't coordinate campaigns with candidates. But the Bateman link is a treacherous association for Garcia, whose former chief of staff pleaded guilty last year to attempted absentee-ballot fraud. Garcia will likely be running in the general election against former Rep. David Rivera, who has been plagued by investigations, or against Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, who's running on a platform of turning the page on scandals.
Prill declined to comment on Rivera. The NRCC did not help fund Rivera's 2012 campaign, and has named Curbelo to its program that helps recruited candidates.
Bateman supported Garcia in his 2010 and 2012 congressional campaigns but he hadn't been arrested then. In the past, Garcia has also flaunted the endorsement of Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace, who has also had plenty of negative press in his three decades in office but has never been charged with any wrongdoing.
"The background footage used in an ad by an outside group was shot several years ago," Garcia's campaign said in a statement. "Representative Garcia continues to remain committed to serving the people of the district. This week is small business week; Representative Garcia released bipartisan legislation to grow small businesses in South Florida and is meeting with business owners in the district."
The footage had been available, until recently, on Garcia's own campaign website, which is how many outside groups that can't legally coordinate with campaigns get their B-roll for ads.
Candace Bryan Abbey, a spokeswoman for Patriot Majority, has changed the Garcia ad, which begins airing on television Wednesday.
"We use publicly available footage in our ads, as legally allowed by the FEC, and have made one change to the ad," she said in a statement. "We will continue our support of the work Congressman Garcia has done fighting for the middle class."
Bateman's cameo was first reported by the Political Cortadito blog.
Thorny associations are sometimes hard to avoid in Florida, for politicians on both sides of the aisle. Republican Gov. Rick Scott's reelection campaign recently released a web ad featuring the former South Bay city manager, who has been convicted of grand theft. (Scott's campaign said the footage was old and would no longer use it, noting the ad did not air on TV.)
It has been a bad day for Garcia in Web World. The conservative super PAC America Rising released a web video of Garcia at a House hearing where he picks at his ear and then puts his finger in his mouth -- unaware he's on camera. Members of Congress: You're always on camera. And someone's always watching.
Late Tuesday, Garcia appeared to comment on the ear-picking incident with two posts on Twitter:
This post has been updated. Three times.