Campaign Gas Gimmick Backfires

An attention-grabbing stunt by a top Democratic recruit intended to highlight the high price of gasoline instead turned into a public relations embarrassment for the campaign.

Business consultant Dan Seals, the Democrat challenging Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), held an event last week at a suburban Chicago service station where his campaign subsidized the price of gas to the same $1.85 level as it was before Kirk was elected in 2000.

What the campaign didn’t fully anticipate was the nearly two-mile long stretch of traffic created by the stunt, which hamstrung the local police force.

In the end, only 50 drivers were able to fuel at the station – with the rest sitting in traffic unable to receive the discounted gas. And the local police force sent the campaign an additional $2,200 tab to cover the price of traffic control.

Now Kirk’s campaign is accusing Seals of attempting to buy votes, with them claiming the event is a violation of federal law “by reimbursing voters’ gasoline expenses in an effort to influence their votes.”

Several other Democratic candidates have held similar events – though most of them have been candidates in smaller markets looking to generate cheap publicity. Seals is one of the Democrats’ strongest recruits this election cycle, and has over $745,000 funds in his campaign account – enough to air local advertising without having to resort to a grassroots campaign stunt to garner attention.
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