Watchdogs file complaint over Perry ads

Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, in Washington.

Updated 1:38 p.m. Eastern Time

Following the airing of our second CBS Evening News spot on Super PACS on Saturday Dec. 15, showing three instances where identical TV footage appeared in a pair of ads that is supposed to be uncoordinated, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center have filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the Perry presidential campaign and a Perry-Supporting Super PAC Make Us Great Again. 

The complaint submitted Thursday asks the FEC to investigate possible violations of campaign finance law, asserting the belief that the Super PAC gave video footage to Perry's campaign without charge. Such a gift of video footage would be an in-kind "contribution" from Make Us Great Again to likely exceeding the $2,500 candidate contribution limit and violating the outright ban on Super PAC contributions to candidates, according to Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center.

"The use by the Perry presidential campaign of the same video footage contained in an ad run by the Super PAC supporting Governor Perry raises serious concerns about whether the Super PAC is really independent from the Perry campaign, as required by law," said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer in a written statement. "This matter requires an FEC investigation to determine if the campaign finance laws have been violated."

"For decades, federal law has recognized that giving something of value to a candidate, like video footage, is the same thing as giving money to the candidate," added Campaign Legal Center attorney Paul S. Ryan. "The Perry campaign is prohibited from accepting such in-kind contributions with a value exceeding the $2,500 contribution limit and, further, Super PACs are prohibited altogether from making contributions to candidates. It appears the Perry campaign and Make Us Great Again likely violated these laws, and the FEC needs to investigate."

The ads in question are the Super PAC spot called "Conservative" and a Rick Perry For President 2012 web video called "Securing The Dream (Marcus' Story)." 

A Super PAC spokesman previously told CBS News that its crew filmed the footage of Perry at his August campaign kickoff in South Carolina and subsequent events in Iowa.

"We haven't given the campaign any footage of ours," spokesman Jason Miller said last week.

In response to the FEC complaint, Perry campaign deputy press secretary Catherine Frazier said, "The footage mentioned was pulled from the public domain," referring to a YouTube posting of the Super PAC ad. "The campaign remains in full compliance with FEC regulations."

Frazier said the campaign has neither considered asking the ad maker, Lucas Baino, to change the duplicate shots, nor has it considered pulling down the video from

Ryan said, "This type of video sharing makes a mockery of the contribution limits and the notion that Super PACs are independent of candidates."

Ryan, Wertheimer and other Super PAC critics believe the creation and staffing of Super PACS by close political associates of the candidates also makes a mockery of the notion of the PAC's independence. One example they point to is Make Us Great Again being founded by Perry's former gubernatorial chief of staff Mike Toomey.

After last Saturday's debate in Des Moines, CBS News/National Journal campaign reporter Rebecca Kaplan asked Perry campaign press secretary Mark Miner if Perry still talks to Toomey?

"No," Miner replied. "The governor hasn't talked to him in quite some time."

Miner continued," I don't know what his private conversations are, but as far as the campaigns, our campaign does not have any involvement with any Super PAC."