Pro-Romney super PAC says ad is legal

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at Meridian Bioscience in Cincinnati, Ohio, Monday, Feb. 20, 2012.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

In the growing controversy over super PACs and their role in the 2012 presidential campaign, a watchdog group is accusing the super PAC supporting Republican candidate Mitt Romney of improperly airing an ad originally created by Romney's campaign for president in 2007.

(Watch ad at left.)

Paul Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center specializing in federal election law, said that the expense of re-airing the ad is an improper contribution by Restore Our Future super PAC to Romney. Ryan said, "The rule says what matters is a person that republished campaign material - material created by a candidate or campaign committee or any agent thereof - the money spent is treated as a contribution to that candidate." And he added, "It is flatly illegal for a super PAC to give money to a candidate."

The super PAC ad is called Saved and started airing in Michigan and Arizona on Thursday. It is nearly identical to a 2007 Romney campaign ad titled Searched. Both featured Robert Gay, Romney's former business partner, recounting Romney's decision to suspend business at Bain Capital and bring 50 employees to New York City to help search for Gay's daughter, a 14-year-old who had snuck away from home. The only difference is, the Restore Our Future ad ends with the "Brought to you by Restore Our Future" while the closing line of the 2007 Romney campaign ad is, "I'm Mitt Romney and I approved this message."

In a response to the watchdog group, the super PAC said in a statement, "We purchased the rights to the footage from it's owner, Cold Harbor films, which did not entail interacting with the Romney campaign." The ad is airing in Michigan and Arizona, which host the next round of primaries on Tuesday.

In the spot, Gay calls Romney, "the man who helped save my daughter."

  • Sarah B. Boxer On Twitter»

    Sarah B. Boxer covers politics for CBS News.