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Bishop press secretary apologizes for Keown letter

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

Press Secretary Ashton McCrae initially e-mailed subscribers of Bishop's congressional e-mail list the open letter, titled "Keown has Bitten Off More Than He Can Chew," Wednesday, following Keown's primary victory.

But late Friday afternoon, two e-mails -- one a statement asking to rescind the original e-mail followed by a more detailed apology from McRae -- were sent to the same list of recipients.

In his apology, McRae said that in his haste to defend Bishop from Keown's "inaccurate and malicious attacks," he wrote a press release and posted it on Bishop's website without his knowledge or approval.

"I wrote a press release that inappropriately included material which, while true, ought to have come from the campaign and not the Congressional office," McRae wrote.

Attempts to reach McRae were unsuccessful late Friday afternoon.

Bishop is preparing for what some predict will be a tough challenge from Keown, a former state representative from Thomasville. Keown handily won the Republican primary Tuesday.

Bishop will open his campaign headquarters Monday in Albany on Dawson Road.

In his original e-mail, which was sent to the Herald at 11:10 a.m. on Wednesday, McRae offers to clear the record in response to a July 17 commentary by Keown in the Thomasville Times-Enterprise in which he compares Bishop, a member of the conservative Blue-Dog Democrats, with the more liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The letter goes on to attack Keown's own political record by pointing out how spending grew under his leadership both as the mayor of Coolidge and a member of the Thomas County School Board.

Congress maintains strict rules regarding the separation of campaign-related material and congressional business. It's unclear whether McRae's letter could trigger an ethics violation.

According to the 2008 House Ethics Manual adopted by the 110th Congress, congressional resources are not to be used to further a campaign.

"... Official resources of the House must, as a general rule, be used for the performance of official business of the House, and hence those resources may not be used for campaign or political purposes. The laws and rules referenced in this section reflect the basic principle that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain reelection."

According that same document, "official resources," include, among other things, congressional office equipment and staff time.

The document goes on to state that "among the specific activities that clearly may not be undertaken in a congressional office or using House resources (including official staff time) are... the drafting of campaign speeches, statements, press releases or literature..."

McCrae's statement:

To Whom It May Concern:

In my haste to respond to Rep. Keown's inaccurate and malicious attacks against Congressman Bishop, I wrote a press release that inappropriately included material which, while true, ought to have come from the campaign and not the Congressional Office. I did not speak with the Congressman before writing the release. After I released it and posted it in error on the Congressman's website, Congressman Bishop instructed me to rescind the release and remove it from the Congressional website and I removed it immediately as per his instructions. I sincerely apologize for the error.

Mike Keown won the Republican nod Tuesday to challenge Bishop in the 2nd Congressional Race in November.

The article in question, titled "Keown has Bitten Off More Than He Can Chew," was e-mailed to subscribers of Bishop's congressional e-mailing list and posted on his website Wednesday, following Keown's victory.