Uproar over racist video ad in Calif. House race

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – A crudely produced video depicting gun-toting black gang members spanking a white, bikini-clad California congressional candidate set off a bipartisan furor Wednesday and illustrated how the power of the anything-goes Internet is influencing political campaigns.

Democrat Janice Hahn, who is portrayed in the ad as a gyrating pole dancer, called the 90-second spot vulgar, racist and sexist. Her Republican rival in the 36th Congressional District, Craig Huey issued a statement saying “our district deserves better.”

“The ad was not authorized and not affiliated with my campaign,” Huey said. “Whether people agree with my politics or not, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I would not participate in something of this nature.”

The ad was funded by Turn Right USA, which according to government filings is based in suburban Los Angeles. The group is a fundraising arm for conservative filmmaker Ladd Ehlinger Jr., who posted the ad on his website has a track record of producing provocative political ads.

The ad begins by accusing Hahn of using taxpayer funds to help free incarcerated gang members, which Hahn’s campaign said was unfounded. It then features shots of armed black men rapping and gesturing around the pole dancer.

Ehlinger said in a telephone interview the ad will remain on the Web, despite the criticism and calls to remove it. He said the ad has “a kernel of serious to it” but his critics were missing the joke.

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“I’ve always wanted to do a rap video and combine it with a political attack ad and make it so over the top it would drive everyone crazy,” Ehlinger said. “If Michael Moore made video showing (Sarah) Palin stripping for conservative Christian nut-jobs, I don’t think the other side would be condemning it.”

Hahn’s campaign said it planned to ask federal regulators to investigate if Huey’s campaign had any connection to the ad or its producers. Ehlinger said he had no tie to the Huey campaign.

The Rev. Eric Lee, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, said the ad insults women and “represents the racist bigotry of the Jim Crow era.”

The ad created a swirl of media attention is a race that has attracted little notice outside the coastal district, which stretches from the famous Venice boardwalk to the edge of the sprawling Los Angeles port.

Longtime Democratic consultant Bill Carrick said the ad is a glimpse of what’s to come in an era of eased legal restrictions in which some political committees can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money with little, or no, accountability or oversight.

For campaigns, deciding whether to address such fringe ads can be “a terrible choice,” Carrick added. “If you address it, you bring more attention to the whole thing and all its unbelievable insanity, or if you don’t say anything you run the risk of people thinking there is some truth to that stuff.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.