Republicans are accusing Sean Eldridge of accepting an illegal in-kind campaign donation by repurposing footage from a local economic group for a campaign ad.
But Eldridge’s campaign says the video is in the public domain and doesn’t raise an issue.
In a release by state GOP spokesman David Laska, Republicans cite a complaint from the Delaware County Republican Republican Party Chair Maria Kelso that accuses Eldridge’s campaign of using footage taken by the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation in his video announcing his candidacy.
Kelso argues to the Federal Election Committee that the used footage counts as an in-kind donation. In-kind donations are donations that are done in goods and services, rather than money.
Kelso’s letter first was provided to the Daily News’s Washington D.C. correspondent Dan Friedman, and can be seen here.
“As a 27-year-old who married a billionaire, Sean Eldridge might be used to treating the world as his personal playground, but he’s about to learn that rules apply to him, too,” said Laska.
But Eldridge’s campaign spokesman Morgan Hook says HVEDC’s video was in the public domain and therefore is fair game.
“If Chris Gibson wants to direct attention to a video that shows Sean was creating jobs in the Hudson Valley while he was playing political games in Washington, we will gladly have this discussion,” Hook said. ” The video in question is in the public domain, and there is no violation here.”
A FEC spokeswoman said Thursday they have no record of the complaint, at least not yet.
Larry Gottlieb, president and CEO of HVEDC, said the video was done for a public event that Eldridge helped launch, donating $250,000 of his own money to the project.
Gottlieb said the footage belongs to HVEDC they uploaded the video on YouTube. But Eldridge’s campaign requested if they could use the video and were given permission, Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb said as far as he knows no other footage taken for HVEDC’s promotional video was provided to Eldridge’s campaign aside from what was uploaded to YouTube.
What’s being lost in the argument, Gottlieb said, was that Eldridge’s campaign didn’t have to ask for to use the YouTube video but did so anyway.
Stephanie Valle, Gibson’s chief of staff and campaign spokeswoman, said Gibson’s campaign was told of the complaint as the Delaware County GOP was preparing and sending it out.
“Sean Eldridge continues to use his billion dollar fortune to try and buy a Congressional seat, through both campaign spending and his venture capital firm. And, the ties between his business and campaign are clear – from co-located offices to using the same PR firm. Whether the connection is illegal is a determination for the FEC to make.”
According to John Ferro of the Poughkeepsie Journal, when pressed if the complaint was spurred by the Gibson campaign, Valle said she wouldn’t confirm or deny it.
According to the FEC’s citizens guide,
“The donation of office machines, furniture, supplies–anything of value–is an in-kind contribution. The value of the donated item (the usual and normal charge) counts against the contribution limits. A donation of services is also considered an in-kind contribution. For example, if you pay a consultant’s fee or a printing bill for services provided to a campaign, you have made an in-kind contribution in the amount of the payment.
If you sell an item or service to a committee and ask the committee to pay less than the usual and normal charge, you have also made an in-kind contribution to the committee in the amount of the discount.
Under limited exceptions in the law, you may provide certain goods and services without making a contribution to the committee. These exceptions are volunteering, travel expenses and business services.”
Here’s Eldridge’s announcement video.