Lee Zurik Investigation: Reed pays Hollywood price for video PSA

A still image from the 2009 anti-drug PSA.
A still image from the 2009 anti-drug PSA.

Bess Carrick has been around politics for decades. You'd think she'd seen it all.

"Yes, that's surprising to me," Carrick tells us, surprised after watching a 60-second video clip.

This is a public service announcement, or PSA, put together for Walter Reed, district attorney in St. Tammany Parish. According to his office, they aired it on a public access channel in Washington Parish.

The PSA features Reed on camera, reading for about 35 seconds, followed by an announcer reading for another 20 seconds.

When we ask Carrick if such a video were simple to make, she tells us, "Yes. You get a camera, you put it on a tripod... they looked like they had a little bit of light on the guy. I certainly think he should have known his own script. Looks like someone might have been holding up cards."

Carrick owns Blackbird Media. She's won awards for her documentary on Lindy Boggs.

"We've been doing political media for over 20 years," she tells us. "And I've been doing independent films for probably 30."

We had her critique the video.

"I would say it was shot with a medium-professional camera," she says, "or you could have shot that with an iPhone if you, you know, held it tight, steady."

When we ask Carrick how much she would charge to produce such a video, with her production values and level of quality, she says, "It would have been between $2,500 and $3,000, because we would have put some sort of very interesting animation in the back, we would have shot him on a green screen, we would have professionally lit him. We would have used a TelePrompTer and we would have edited and done a professional voiceover, probably with a little music under it."

Based on the production values of the clip she watched, Carrick estimates a much lower price. "I would guess between $500 and $750," she tells us. "And the reason I say it's that high, is because I think that might have been a professional voice at the end. And if so, those run at about $275 a pop."

According to campaign records, Walter Reed had his son's production company, Globop, produce the video. We put in a public records request last week to get a copy of it. Reed's office sent the video to us Thursday afternoon.

The payments from the DA's campaign to his son have raised questions as we probe campaign finance across the state of Louisiana.

Since 2006, Reed's campaign has paid his son Steven's companies almost $95,000 – including $14,300 for this 60-second video.

"What? Really... that's amazing," says Carrick when we reveal the price tag. "That's very interesting."

It's surprising because she says she has never come close to charging that much money for a 60-second video. "We should charge someone to, you know, come to the studio, we'd book the crew to be there," she tells us, "we'd do a lot of animation in the background, on the green screen, so it's reinforced. And that could add up, if you just went insane, to maybe $7,000."

State law says a politician can pay immediate family members out of campaign funds for services as long as the "services are related to the payment" and the "value of the services must be commensurate with the consideration provided."

Carrick doesn't think the DA got close to equal value in return for what he paid.

"I've never seen a 500 dollar video charged for 14k," she says. "Have to be drunk out of your mind to pay that much."

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