How does a congressman run against "The Ear," a young whipper-snapper and a playboy image
He wraps himself in the American flag, Oral Roberts and good old Americanism on the House floor with Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neil Jr.l looking on.
The air Force films the affair - at government expense.Then the congressman puts it on TV back home so all the folks can see what life in Washington is all about.
That's what Rep. Ted Risenhoover (D-Okia.) is doing. And, he says, it's driving "the spoiled, rich kid I'm running against" half nutty.
"They've tried to paint me as a 'Playboy on the Potomac,'" he explained. "This film changes that image. It gives a more accurate image of what I'm really like. This, of course, disturbs the rich kid."
The film is of the annual Flag Day ceremonies in the House. Risenhoover, a two-term Democrat, was chairman of the festivities.
As a congressional courtesy, the Air Force filmed the affair, which starred evanglist Oral Roberts, the Air Force Singing Sergeants and Risenhoover who read a poem entitled "I am an American." Risenhoover did a little editing of the film and is showing "this important religious and patrottic ceremony" as "a public service in 30-minute TV spots in his district prior to the Aug. 22 primary.
The tactic is necessary, he says, because his opponents have circulated "to church folks" copies of "The Ear," The Washington Star's celebrated gossip column, that portray him as a playboy. Among other things, the column said the divorced Risenhoover lives in "a swingong Southwest townhouse" with a "heart-shaped waterbed."
His Democratic primary opponent, Mike Synar, a 27-year-old political novice, is doing everything possible to get the film off the air.
He claims the Air Force and the House have, in effect, subsidized Risenhoover's campaign to the tune of from $5,000 to $25,000 by allowing use of the film. And he has complained about it to the Federal Election Commission, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Speaker O'Neil and anyone else who will listen.
"Congressman Risenhoover has seriously abused his disceretion and authority as a member of Congress, particulary as regards the prohibition against the use of House facilities and the chamber itself for political purposes," one of Synar's aides charged in a letter to ethics committee Chairman John J. Flynt (D-Ga.).
Risenhoover, however, is bent on showing the film every chance he gets before the primary election. He says he paid the Air Force $500 for a spliced version of the film suitable for television use and has done nothing wrong.
"My opponent is obviously a very rich, very spoiled kid who is throwing a temper tantrum because he can't have his way," he says with a flourish of election-year rhetoric. "I'm shocked that he would resort to censorship to-deny the people of northeast Oklahoma an opportunity to view this very religious and patriotic ceremony."