Pennsylvania’s Worst Campaign Photoshop of 2012

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Photoshopping campaign material is generally frowned upon in the world of professional politics.  It always seems like a good idea at the time—but it always comes back to hurt you when a careful eye notices.  The problem with doctoring photos for political purposes is not so much that a candidate has done it, but that the discovery almost always leads to speculation about why the candidate would do it—and what that says about the image the candidate is trying to falsely portray to voters. 

Representative Rob Kauffman (R-Chambersburg) is the latest victim of the careful eye test, and I should immediately point out that it was not this author’s careful eyes that discovered it.

A few weeks ago, Keystone Politics was sent an email by a voter in the 89th General Assembly District claiming that they had in their possession doctored political photos used by the Kauffman campaign.  Those photos were sent to Keystone Politics, and the scanned copies appear below.

Here’s the first piece of literature, which was given to voters by Kauffman as he knocked on their door:

An idyllic, perfect, and loving family indeed.

Now, here’s the piece of campaign literature that was sent to the very same voters as a follow up:

Puppy! [Keystone Politics added the red circle highlighting the perplexing pooch.]

The photos are identical, with the exception of a cuddly canine companion alongside the Kauffman clan.

The planted puppy is reminiscent of Will Ferrell’s fictional character in “The Campaign,” who while running for Congress replaces pictures of his pugs (a Chinese breed in origin) with a golden retriever and a chocolate lab named Scout and Sergeant, respectively.

“The Campaign,” however, was intended to parody everything that is wrong with politics whereas Representative Kauffman’s literature actually exemplifies it.

Usually, being caught with a political photoshop is embarrassing enough, but it’s the follow-up questions that do the damage.

Let’s look at some historic doctored political photos to gain some insight into this phenomenon.  The 2004 Presidential Election will serve our purpose well as a case study.

Remember when Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie called Senator John Kerry a “Jane Fonda Democrat?” Shortly thereafter, this photo began circulating around the internet:

The exposure of the photoshop was bad enough, but the bigger point was that the Bush campaign was trying so desperately to disparage Senator Kerry’s patriotism and war heroism that their supporters were willing to fabricate photo evidence to “prove” their point.

How about the late 2004 Bush campaign ad “Whatever It Takes,” which showed President Bush standing on a podium next to a crowd chock-full of military supporters? After a closer look is taken at the footage, the following still shows a significant problem with the crowd:

Again, the fallout from the digital doctoring was utterly unpleasant for the Bush campaign, but it showed that their strategy was to align the President with military support and take away from John Kerry’s bona fides as an American patriot.

So what does Rep. Rob Kauffman’s photo say about his underlying motivation? We can only speculate, but the doctored photos strongly suggest that Kauffman wants to portray himself as a family man with family values, and even a family dog.  He’s just like your family, or at least what you aspire for your family to be.

Kauffman wants voters to make certain assumptions about him personally. To make sure that voters make those assumptions, his campaign has added a cute little puppy to his literature.

I don’t know whether Rob Kauffman is the idealized man that these photos portray.  In fact, I bet he probably is.

But I do know this–if you want a legislator representing you who can make puppies appear out of thin air, then Rob Kauffman is your man.

[Update: We want your submissions! If Rob Kauffman can photoshop a puppy into a picture of him, you can too. Please send in all submissions of your doctored photos of Rob Kauffman with a puppy to with the subject line “Kauffman Canine Contest.” The best doctored doggy with a Kauffman candid will be posted next week. For stock photos of Kauffman, check out his handy photo gallery here:]

About Jake Sternberger

Jake Sternberger was a contributing writer at Keystone Politics from 2011 to 2014.
This entry was posted in Harrisburg / South Central and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Pennsylvania’s Worst Campaign Photoshop of 2012

  1. Noel Fry says:

    Jake, I am not sure this is the WORST ever…but it pretty bad.

  2. Interested Observer says:

    This is insanely ridiculous. Did you bother to ask if it’s really their dog? I bet it is. Did they get it after the family photo was taken?

    Most of all, while I admire your commitment to your principles of bashing Mr. Kauffman and supporting Ms. Spicka, to even infer that this is anything like the other photo-shop issues you reference in your article is crossing the line.

    Of course, you won’t post this, so it doesn’t matter.

  3. Kim Schaeffer says:

    Maybe they couldn’t get the dog to sit for the original picture? So they took another pic of just the dog and put them together. No big deal.

  4. Conservative Photographer says:

    I’m sure no Democrat has ever Photoshopped a campaign photo. No, NEVER! Please!

  5. John Cooper says:

    How bout Spicka photoshopping a W with the Dept of State on Nov 6th after earning more votes. Best fantasy for your cute contest.

  6. nancy gardner says:

    I can tell you that this little pup is for real and that the family is crazy about her.
    To imply a dubious motive for putting her in the picture is laughable!

    Every dog should be so lucky. And as far as I know, she’s not a political animal. (o:

  7. Murry says:

    The Kauffman family recently adopted a shelter puppy, a half yorkie, and that’s their new family addition in the photogaph. Their children probably insisted that the puppy be included in the family photograph. What a silly article you have wasted so much tme and money on!
    Thank you family Kauffman for rescuing a shelter puppy becaue we have too many homeless dogs in PA and shame on Ms. Spicka & Company for trying to belittle this act of kindness.

    • Jake Sternberger says:

      1. Money? Hah!
      2. “Daddy, daddy, we love the puppy so much that we want you to photoshop it into your political campaign materials!” Yeah…
      3. Nice try, but Rep. Kauffman voted against regulating puppy mills. Ouch!

  8. Jon says:

    I can assure you that no money was spent on this blog post.

  9. nancy gardner says:

    You’re wrong about the Representative’s vote. He voted in favor of the Puppy Mill Bill which we hoped would end the abuses in Penna.’s puppy mills. He has been a strong supporter of every animal welfare bill since then, including two major animal welfare bills that passed the House just last week.
    Better check the record.

  10. John Cooper says:

    You have a bizarre fixation on Rep Kauffman, Jake. You need to get a new hobby or a life. 202 other Representatives to harass..

    • Jess says:

      Right on Coop!
      Wished I knew what the tie is between Jake and Ms. Spicka – darn it, my local news doesn’t report on this race. Reading Jake’s links from Keystone Report would make anyone believe it is the most important race in PA. What about the Atty General Race, the Presidential Race?
      Jake sounds shrill, and just a little obsessed.

  11. Jake Sternberger says:

    I think you’re mistaking laziness for obsession–it’s hard to pass up when it’s just so easy.

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  14. Charlotte Grimme says:

    I think that it is interesting that he voted against the bill to ban live pigeon shoots and against the bill to give a tax credit for adopting a shelter pup but thought it was important to put a pup in his campaign photo. Thanks for posting the scorecard. I only vote for Humane Pa endorsed candidates.

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  16. ConcernedReader says:

    I think you missed the real issue here Mr. Sternberger. I think the real issue here is that Rob Kauffman owns an invisible dog. The longer we stay silent on this issue the more time these invisible dogs have time to reproduce and take over the world.

  17. Bryce says:

    Of course the obvious dig would be that they forgot the dog on the roof of their car when the actual photo was taken (it’s a GOP thing). Sadly though, this is just the common way the GOP seems to be running all of their campaigns. Speak what they know everyone wants to hear but not what they are actually doing in office on everyone’s dime. When did honesty become such a rare commodity and why do so many people blindly accept everything that comes out of their mouths as the truth with no evidence based in fact to back anything up? Just as the truth will set you free, lies will bury this state and this country if left unchecked.

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