IT WON'T WIN any Emmys, but a television "special" featuring Rep. Ted Risenhoover (D-Okla.) deserves a minor prize for political gall. With the state's primary next Tuesday, the Risenhoover campaign committee has bought television time to air - four times this week - a half-hour version of the official Air Force film of this year's Flag Day observance in the House. As edited by Rep. Risenhoover at his own expense (a modest $650, compared with the $5,000-or-so the Air Force spent to produce the film), this epic documentary includes an inspirational address by evangelist Oral Roberts, whose headquarters is in Tulsa. But the dramatic climax is a reading of "I Am an American" by the chairman of the House Flag Day committee, backed up by the Air Force's Singing Sergeants and band. Do we have to tell you who is this year's chairman of the House Flag Day Committee?
Now, this may be just the thing for a congressman who wants to combat a playboy image by wrapping himself in the flag. People who take a punctilious view of such goings-on may fuss about the blatantly political use of an official film of an official House event. But the legal lines between official and campaign activities are so fuzzy in some respects that Rep. Risenhoover may be right in maintaining that he has no violated any law or rules of the House.
If legal quibbling is pointless, it is also beside the point. The more intriguing question, we think, is how the Air Force came to be filming this minor House event at all. When you poke into that, you learn that it was not a one-time favor to a two-term congressman. Instead, it has become routine over the years for the services to supply a band and a camera crew for the House's annual Flag Day show. The Air Force simply got the call this year.
Does that mean there's an intense nationwide demand for - and use of - Flag Day movies as inspirational programs for schools, civic groups and the like? Well, not exactly. The film is quietly handed over to the Flag Day chairman, and his office distributes it. Mr. Risenhoover thinks highly of this service; he shared last year's movie - in which he was shown making a patriotic speech - with some 200 groups in his district. Apparently no one else used it.
Is this what you would call a rip-off? Precisely. And it's a rip-off, like a lot of other congressional exploitations of officials sources, that is at least tacitly sanctioned by the House high command, including Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill. This says something, in turn, about the high command's consistency. While resisting the intrusion of television cameras on its regular business, the House welcomes the intrusion on Flag Day, when one incumbent is starring in a carefully staged sideshow, available for campaign purposes and paid for largely by the government.