BOISE -- It's not just the campaigns working hard to get your vote, organizations are too. One eastern Idaho company is trying to drum up support for its favorite candidate with an ad that's drawing criticism and a possible legal fight.
Melaleuca Incorporated has spent thousands of dollars running television ads supporting incumbent Republican candidate Tom Luna for state Superintendent of Public Education. Melaleuca's CEO claims his only corporate interest in the race is having a good education system.
"We can't really operate unless our kids are educated," Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot said. "I think our kids deserve a great education, and one administrator versus another makes all the difference in the world."
Melaleuca's ad supporting Luna shows a clip from an Idaho Public Television debate, with Stan Olson answering whether he'd take a 10th grade standardized test in subjects, including math, to determine his pay scale.
In his answer, Olson admits he's always struggled with mathematics and continues to work on improving in that area. Melaleuca says Olson's statements would make him a bad choice for superintendent.
Olson says he holds college degrees that required advanced math courses to achieve, and he has prepared many school budgets. He also said understanding his weaknesses in subjects makes him a better candidate.
"I've always had anxiety about math, and I think it's a good thing," Democratic candidate Stan Olson said. "It makes me a better father, a better parent, a better teacher, a better principal and a better superintendent to know how kids struggle sometimes in mathematics."
Beyond what Olson said in the debate: Can Melaleuca even use that video? Idaho Public Television says no, that the video is its copyrighted property and the station can say how it's used.
"The participants, the candidates, and the organizers of the Idaho Debates gave no authorization for this third party usage, and we hope Melaleuca will see fit to immediately stop using our footage," Idaho Public Television General Manager Peter Morrill said.
On Friday, Idaho Public Television sent a cease and desist letter, but Melaleuca says it won't be pulling the ad.
"They claim copyright law. We checked with our authorities in that area of the law. Our legal advisors told us that they did not feel that Public Television had copyright laws to prevent the use," VanderSloot said.
A threat to future debates?
IPTV says use of its video in this way threatens its future debates and the debates other television stations hold around the state.
"Part of the currency, the value of debates, is to create a level playing field," Morrill said. "Anytime a candidate feels they're not going to be treated fairly, and this is just one example of candidates not getting a good sense their images will be used appropriately, it will only undermine the debate organizing process."
Morrill said other candidates have wanted to use IPTV debate video for campaign ads, and IPTV denied the usage.
"We don't think having third parties excerpt segments of the debates serves the public good well; hence, we will defend our copyright," Morrill said.
On top of the copyright issues, Morrill confirms the video was manipulated and is not in it's original state. For example, some portions of the video are zoomed in or slowed down, an old IPTV logo is inserted and ominous music is playing during Olson's statements.
VanderSloot says any changes were not intended to be deceptive He says he picked out one specific answer he thought was important to highlight, but makes it clear (with text in the ad), he encourages people to watch the entire debate online.
"We'd like people to just watch the whole debate, but of course you can't show the whole debate in a 60 second spot, so we wanted to bring some of the attention on that race, and we thought that those comments that we show are quite important for people to know," VanderSloot said.
That ad is not airing on KTVB right now. Here's what the station's general manager Doug Armstrong has to say:
"We have two very different and opposing opinions regarding the legal right to use IPTV video in a commercial. It's our view that the copyright issue should be settled before we air the commercial, and we encourage both parties to seek settlement," Armstrong said.