AUSTIN — A video snippet showing Democratic U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking kindly of GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison at a Washington event came from a tape made by two men working for Gov. Rick Perry's campaign, the campaign admitted today.
Perry campaign director Luis Saenz confirmed the making of the video in a report published in Wednesday's online edition of the Austin American-Statesman.
"We're being very aggressive in everything we do," Saenz said. "And you ain't seen nothing yet."
Perry, a Republican, is bracing for a potential primary challenge by Hutchison in 2006. Hutchison hasn't said yet whether she will run against him.
In the 46-second video, circulating rapidly by e-mail among conservative activists, Clinton tells audience members she's "delighted that Kay is my partner on so many important fronts."
The senators pose, smiling, and lightly embrace twice.
The two appeared back-to-back at a March 3 event at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, devoted to women's history, on Capitol Hill in Washington, a museum spokeswoman said.
Laura Nisbet said that at the time, two men taping the event identified themselves as working for Perry.
Hutchison spokesman Chris Paulitz said Tuesday that employees of Perry used state Republican leaders — many of whom have written Hutchison urging her to abandon consideration of a challenge to Perry next year — to spread the video and "take silly political shots. Sen. Hutchison is doing her job and, at this critical time, the governor should focus on doing his."
Nisbet said Hutchison spoke before Clinton arrived, and the two spent only a few minutes together at the event.
Of the men who made the videotape, Nisbet said: "They kind of took advantage of our museum and did this. But I guess that's part of the game."
Saenz said Tuesday the campaign had no idea where the snippet originated and had no role in its distribution.
But Saenz, informed of Nisbet's account, said Wednesday the campaign hired the men to tape the event. He said he later shared the tape with key supporters "who thought it was funny," and the snippet bouncing around via e-mail germinated without campaign direction.
"It's all over the Internet now like a virus," Saenz said.
Terry Sullivan of Austin, representing Hutchison's campaign for re-election to the Senate, said: "I'm embarrassed they got caught in a lie. I'm a little bit more embarrassed that the governor has nothing better to do than stalk the senator halfway across the country, then be dishonest about it."
Saenz noted Hutchison's criticism of Texas for not soaking up all available federal funds for children's health insurance and her darts at Perry's leadership.
"News flash: Potential opponents trashing my governor are not going to get a free ride," he said.
Separately, Sullivan confirmed that a Hutchison campaign staff member presented himself as "Charlie of Flower Mound" in describing Hutchison as gubernatorial timber on a Fort Worth radio show earlier this month.
The aide, Chad Wilbanks, was identified at the time by Perry's campaign, but the Hutchison camp stayed mum until Wednesday. Wilbanks called the radio program on his way to work one morning, according to Sullivan.
"It was not a campaign plan or strategy" to make the call, he said.