GOP congressional candidate Vaughn Ward on Wednesday recycled a six-month-old endorsement announcement from the American Conservative Union political action committee, including identical quotes from ACU Chairman David Keene in a news release.
The Statesman first reported the ACU PAC endorsement Nov. 11. The paper again published the endorsement online Wednesday and in Thursday’s print edition. Statesman reporter Dan Popkey overlooked the fact the paper had already noted the endorsement. News of the prominent national group’s nod also appeared online in the Spokane Spokesman-Review Nov. 10.
Ward’s opponent, state Rep. Raul Labrador, has been challenging Ward’s conservative credentials. About three hours before the Ward campaign re-released the ACU endorsement, the Statesman reported Labrador had won backing from Idahoans for Choice in Education, a homegrown conservative group.
Ward’s campaign manager, Ryan O’Barto, explained the decision to reissue the news release in an e-mail early Thursday, “As we get closer to the election I like to re-release endorsements. Some were sent out a long time ago and since it was so far out the press might not have picked it up due to the election being so far away.”
But an hour later, O’Barto called to apologize. “I’m not trying to get anything over on you. It’s the same release as before and that’s not what it’s supposed to be. I’m about to send out a correction. That’s my fault. I just got a new Mac and I’m still trying to figure it out.”
O'Barto then e-mailed reporters an apology and sent a third news release, noting that ACU had endorsed Ward in November and including fresh quotes from Keene.
Larry Hart, director of government relations at ACU, said in an interview before O'Barto's apology on Thursday that ACU doesn’t issue its own news releases, leaving it up to campaigns how to use the endorsement. ACU PAC’s support of Ward came without a financial contribution.
“We endorsed him then and we’re endorsing him now,” Hart said.
Ward’s recycled release came a day after his appearance in a TV debate, where he and Labrador clashed over Ward’s recently reported missteps, including his failure to disclose his wife’s assets on his financial statement to the U.S. House and his improper use of the U.S. Marine Corps uniform in campaign advertising.
Said Ward during Tuesday’s debate: “That’s all I can do is say, made a mistake, made the changes and you’re moving on. But isn’t that what we want out of our leaders? Don’t you want somebody who says, I’m not infallible?”