Abraham for governor ad causes dust up

A political ad posted to Ralph Abraham's Facebook page features the entire Dodge Ram 2013 Super Bowl commercial, "Farmer." 

Ralph Abraham’s campaign for governor has garnered about 20,000 views on Facebook for a stirring political advertisement that features a speech by the late conservative radio personality Paul Harvey extolling the virtues of farmers.

If the ad looks familiar, that’s because it first ran in 2013 during the Super Bowl as a Dodge Ram commercial.

Abraham’s campaign last week posted to the candidate’s Facebook page the full Dodge Ram commercial with an “Abraham for Governor” logo at the bottom, in what the campaign argued is its First Amendment right. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ campaign called it “blatant stealing.”

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which makes Dodge vehicles, said in a statement that “the Ram Truck Brand did not authorize this use of its 'Farmer' television commercial and does not make political endorsements.”

The two-minute-long commercial, which ran during the fourth quarter of the 2013 Super Bowl, features a slideshow of photographs of farmers, their farms, and at one point a Dodge Ram truck surrounded by cows. A speech delivered by Paul Harvey in 1978 honoring farmers plays in the background.

“And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker,’” Harvey says in the ad. “So God made a farmer.”

A Republican congressman and one of two major Republican candidates for Louisiana governor this year, Abraham grew up on a farm, according to his U.S. House biography. He represents the mostly rural northeastern part of Louisiana, and sits on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.

In a post accompanying the video, Abraham said, “I heard someone say recently that a farmer isn't qualified to be governor. Well, Paul Harvey and I would respectfully disagree. I think a farmer's character is exactly what this state needs. But I'm a little biased!”

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The post closes with a fundraising plea, asking viewers to “pitch in to turn this state around.”

Lionel Rainey, Abraham’s political consultant, said the post “provides First Amendment protected commentary on the importance of farmers and workers in Louisiana and across the United States.

“Being a farmer is part of Ralph Abraham’s impressive resume of experience and we are proud to highlight his support of Louisiana farmers and workers,” he said.

The Edwards campaign called the video “blatant stealing.”

“This isn’t surprising,” said Eric Holl, a spokesman for Edwards’ campaign. “Rep. Abraham has been recycling Bobby Jindal's policies, and now he's recycling famous commercials.”

The video is not the first ad by a gubernatorial candidate to cause a stir--even in this election. Eddie Rispone, the other major Republican candidate, put up a bright yellow billboard in West Baton Rouge that says “I bought this billboard so the injury lawyers couldn’t,” alongside a picture of Rispone.

Not long after putting the billboard up, the Rispone camp received a letter from a real attorney accusing the campaign of stealing the idea for the billboard and asking them to take it down. The Rispone campaign refused, arguing the First Amendment protected the use of the phrase on the billboard as political speech and satire.

Voters go to the polls Oct. 12 to vote for governor, and if no candidate receives more than 50%, the top two vote-getters will advance to a Nov. 16 general election.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com