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Griffith given award, not endorsement

Friday, October 5, 2012

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Republican Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith’s campaign on Thursday admitted misinterpreting an award the congressman recently received from the American Farm Bureau Federation as being a political endorsement.

Griffith’s campaign manager Matt Moran took responsibility for the mistake.

A press release on Griffith’s campaign website states that the congressman was awarded the Farm Bureau Federation’s “Friend of Farm Bureau” award for his commitment to farmers and agriculture. The subject line at the top of the release originally stated “Morgan Endorsed by Farm Bureau.”

“That ... is very misleading,” said Tracy Taylor Grondine, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s media relations director. She said it seemed to be “creative wordsmithing.”

Grondine said Griffith, R-Salem, received the award because many of his votes on agriculture issues have been in line with Farm Bureau positions.

The award was not an endorsement of Griffith, said Grondine. She said the American Farm Bureau Federation does not endorse candidates and its state affiliate, the Virginia Farm Bureau, does not endorse federal candidates.

After being told of Grondine’s comments, Moran issued a statement that “I mistakenly misconstrued this award as (an) endorsement. For that I sincerely apologize.”

The subject line on the release, as it was posted on Griffith’s website, was changed to read “Morgan Honored by Farm Bureau.”

Dave Miranda, communications director for Griffith’s Democratic challenger, Anthony Flaccavento, of the Abingdon area, alerted the press to the error.

In a phone interview, Miranda said it came to light after the Flaccavento campaign began receiving questions about why Flaccavento — who is a farmer — did not receive an endorsement from the Farm Bureau.

He said he thinks the inaccuracy on Griffith’s website showed “a question of integrity” on the incumbent candidate’s part.

Moran emphasized in a phone interview that “we were not trying to mislead anyone.”

But “whether or not the award constitutes an official ‘endorsement,’” he wrote in his statement, “... does not change the fact that this award was given with the blessing” of the Farm Bureau in recognition of “leadership Congressman Griffith has demonstrated” on statewide farming issues.

The Farm Bureau Federation is the nation’s largest organization that lobbies on behalf of farmers and their families, according to Grondine.

Griffith’s website also reports that he received an endorsement from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA’s Political Victory Fund confirms that endorsement on its website, quoting Chairman Chris W. Cox as saying Griffith is “committed to protecting our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.”


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