Sen. John McCain is taking heat from a television infomercial star famous for hawking free government money, who is angry that the Arizona senator used him in a campaign ad without permission.
Matthew Lesko, known for his distinctive question-mark suits and his high-energy infomercials promising “free money from the government,” says McCain used video of him to attack GOP rival J.D. Hayworth without asking — and Lesko’s not happy about it.
Lesko appears three times in a 1½-minute Web video McCain released last week. The video pokes fun at Hayworth for hawking free government money in a 2007 infomercial.
“I’m amazed that these people just do things without requesting. I would’ve said yes,” Lesko told The Associated Press. “I’m just shocked at the impoliteness that people do this stuff. There’s no remorse.”
Lesko said he hasn’t ruled out suing McCain for copyright infringement, but said he’s not keen on the idea of involving lawyers. Mostly, he wants politicians to be polite and ask permission before using other people’s faces in their advertisements.
The McCain camp said its use of Lesko was clearly allowed under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law.
McCain’s campaign has slammed Hayworth for peddling the services of a Florida company that charges thousands of dollars to help people get government grants. The company is accused of taking advantage of its customers.
Lesko said he voted against McCain in the 2008 presidential election, but he likes the Arizona senator more than Hayworth. He called the company Hayworth pitched “immoral” because it charged so much money.
“It’s remarkable that even Congressman Hayworth’s fellow infomercial pitchmen are appalled at the ‘free money’ scam he helped perpetrate,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said.
This isn’t the first time McCain has been in hot water for using copyrighted material without permission.
Last year, McCain and two Republican Party organizations settled a lawsuit filed by singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, who accused them of using his copyrighted song “Running on Empty” in an Internet video.
As part of the settlement announced in July 2009, McCain, the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party apologized for using a portion of Browne’s song without permission.
McCain didn’t know about the ad, according to a statement released at the time.