There are political scandals and then there are political scandals. (With italics.)
Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign raised a little hell this week over a draft copy of a newspaper ad his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, distributed to the press — and all because it included a stock photo of a Ukrainian model dressed as a miner, instead of a hardworking coal-dusted Kentuckian.
Flagged first by Politico, the ad showed a miner with an ashen face holding a piece of coal. Above and below the photo, it declared: "President Obama and Washington Don't Get It...Alison Grimes Does.” Lundergan Grimes’ campaign says it caught the photo issue and replaced the Ukrainian with a photo of a different man before McConnell’s campaign noticed — which is why the ad that will run in more than 50 Kentucky newspapers over the next week will feature an American. (Her campaign said it was a mistake from the design firm.)
No harm, no foul, right?
Um, no. Not when there there’s political hay to be made. On Thursday, the McConnell campaign mocked up a graphic to highlight that Lundergan Grimes’ campaign had used a stock photo of a foreigner in her unpublished draft coal ad.
The ad was meant to distance the Democrat from Obama’s recently announced mandate that states must reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent before 2030 — a bid to slow climate change that’s seen as fighting words in coal states. About 93 percent of the energy used in Kentucky comes from coal, so both Lundergan Grimes and McConnell have fiercely opposed the president’s rule.
McConnell’s campaign contends that Lundergan Grimes’ position is just empty rhetoric meant to appeal to Kentucky voters who will likely be forced to pay higher energy costs. It points out that despite her declared opposition to Obama’s rule, she chose to attend a fundraiser with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who supports the plan and says mean things about coal sometimes.
But before McConnell casts the first lump of coal on the stock photo question, he might want to take a look at his campaign’s own materials, which are rife with foreign stock photo sins.
On Jan. 16, McConnell’s Facebook page posted this image of a power plant near Athens — and no, it wasn’t the town in Kentucky. It’s actually in Piraeus, Greece.
Here’s another McConnell graphic from April showing a man hunting with his dog.
Oh no! That man and his dog are from Denmark, which maps say is closer to Ukraine than Louisville.
McConnell’s campaign has been doing this for a while. In November he posted this picture of a gun that surely is in Kentucky.
Just kidding! It’s in Slovenia.
All of which is a reminder that campaigns might want to choose their attacks — like their photos — a bit more carefully.