Imagine yourself as a state senator running for re-election in 2010. Your poll numbers are so bad even a hypothetical candidate fairs better than you do? What would you do to counter those numbers? You would do your own poll, silly or at least that is what our own, Richard Burr (R-NC) does

A story in today’s Roll Call newspaper shows that the campaign of U.S. Senator Richard Burr possibly ran afoul of federal election laws regarding a poll conducted by the campaign’s lead consultant, Paul Shumaker.

Shumaker had his private company commission a poll that examined Burr’s chances for re-election in 2010.

After Roll Call questioned the legality of Shumaker’s dealings and he admitted it was in a “gray area,” and said he will submit the costs of the poll as an in-kind contribution to the Burr campaign.

“North Carolinians deserve a U.S. Senator who knows the difference between right and wrong and who isn’t looking to walk in legal gray areas,” said Andrew Whalen, Executive Director of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Shumaker claims he did the poll because a “false picture of the current political environment” had been painted by repeated polls from Public Policy Polling that showed Burr among the least popular Senators up for re-election in 2010.

“To have a senior advisor of Richard Burr claim to be providing ‘accurate information’ about Burr’s political standing is kind of like asking a new parent if their baby is cute. You already know the answer,” Whalen continued. “More importantly though, Richard Burr’s campaign staff wouldn’t have to be cooking up polling numbers if Burr hadn’t completely failed North Carolina families for the past five years.”

From today’s Roll Call story:
“If the evidence was a high-level person paid by a campaign went out and did a poll and had other people pay for the poll, I think that would raise questions about whether it is an in-kind contribution to the campaign,” said Larry Noble, a former general counsel for the FEC who now works as at the law firm Skadden, Arps. “If they gave the information to the campaign prior to releasing it, it would definitely increase the likelihood that it would be considered an in-kind contribution.”

Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center said: “It does raise the question of an in-kind contribution in that outside agents seem to be underwriting a service which will benefit a candidate that the campaign manager is working for. Obviously the devil is in the details on this [but] … you would think the FEC would want to take a close look.”

In June, Public Policy Polling conducted a poll that showed only 29% of North Carolinians believed Burr deserved another term with 22% unsure. And in case you are wondering about the hypothetical candidate’s numbers? Burr trailed them 41% to 38%. Ouch.