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A small record company has launched a video vendetta against Sen. Scott Brown, claiming that the Massachusetts Republican and his daughter Ayla, a singer, backed out of a deal to develop and promote the American Idol semifinalist's career.
Wayne Laakko, a co-owner of Double Deal Brand Records, says losing Ayla Brown "nearly bankrupted" his company. He says she agreed to make at least two more albums and that the Browns owe the label a "substantial amount of money" for merchandise, production, and public relations work. (Brown's attorney denies the allegations.) Now, Laakko says, he's "disgruntled" and is "having a little fun." On Sunday, Laakko posted a bizarre video to Double Deal's YouTube page in which Brown, egged on by an interviewer, answers a question about whom he might like to "stalk."
"Uh, let's see, who would I stalk?…How about, uh, probably one or all of those pussycat girls," Brown replies, apparently referring to the burlesque troupe-turned-singing group the Pussycat Dolls.
Laakko edited the video—recorded in 2006, and one of six he says he plans to release—to intersperse it with video, music, and images of the Dolls. You can see that version below. Here is the raw footage, which Laakko provided to Mother Jones:
According to Laakko, relations between the Browns and Double Deal crumbled after Scott Brown was elected to the Senate in a January 2010 special election. "My company was the one that worked for Ayla right after she got off [American] Idol" in 2006, Laakko says. "Once [Scott Brown] entered the national stage he told us to get lost."
Brown's reelection campaign referred Mother Jones to the senator's attorney, Richard Edlin, who flatly denied Laakko's claims in an email:
These unfounded allegations related to events that are many years old, and involve Senator Brown's daughter Ayla's music career. They do not involve the Senator. The fact that they surface now, less than a month away from the election, make it clear that they are politically motivated. Other than to assure the public that these claims have no merit, we do not intend to discuss these issues in public, and will respond to them in due course in the appropriate venue.
Documents obtained by Mother Jones show Brown managed Ayla's relationship with Double Deal, and was a partner in the venture.
For his part, Laakko says: "From my experience in the four years we worked together, Scott was intimately involved in all aspects of the project. I talked to him more than Ayla during the partnership."
Scott Brown helped to manage his daughter's career until "a few weeks" after he was elected, according to a Boston Magazine profile of Ayla. But Laakko says he remained in "constant contact" with Brown through April 2010, and anything the label planned for Ayla had to be cleared by either Brown or one of his aides, including Boston political consultant Eric Fehrnstrom. Fehrnstrom was a top adviser for Brown's 2010 Senate campaign. He is currently working for Brown's reelection effort, and he's pulling double duty as a top strategist for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. (Fehrnstrom did not respond to requests for comment.)
Laakko claims that he still has a contract with Ayla but can't afford to sue her or her father to enforce the deal. That's because the label spent a "great deal of money" promoting Ayla Brown before Scott Brown "walked away from the very large amount of money that he owed us," claims Ed Gertler, Laakko's business partner and a minority owner of the label. (Gertler says he "very much" supports Brown's Democratic rival in the Massachusetts Senate race, Elizabeth Warren.)
Laakko says Ayla backed out of her obligations to Double Deal in May 2010. He adds that Ayla told him in a phone call that she was quitting music to focus on working as a correspondent for CBS News. "She said CBS was not allowing her to be a musician," Laakko says.
Jim McGregor, Brown's former producer, says Brown did tell Double Deal she was quitting music for CBS, but that "wasn't accurate…because obviously she went down to Nashville and did a lot of other stuff." And as the January 2011 Boston Magazine article on her career makes clear, Ayla Brown was back to making music again shortly after her break with the label:
[S]ince graduating in May, Ayla's entire focus has been her singing career. Now she logs up to 70 hours a week writing, networking, tweeting, making appearances, and performing live shows wherever she can get them: at malls, fairs, festivals, games. She spent the summer touring New England to promote Circles, her latest self-released EP; signing CDs; and selling Ayla Brown T-shirts, posters, and other merchandise. All those $5 laminated backstage passes add up. She's been able to buy her own condo (though she rents it out and, like a good girl, continues to live at her parents’ house in Wrentham).
Ayla Brown's "Fizzically Fit" tour—when she played shows in Massachusetts and Rhode Island—also occurred during the summer of 2010. (Ayla Brown did not respond to requests for comment.)
"My company offered their lawyers the ability to walk away with our work, our years of help and work and guidance, and we basically asked them to pay us back to zero," Laakko says. "I wasn't asking for millions of dollars. I was asking to walk away even."
The settlement negotiations broke down by February 2011, Laakko says.
Laakko says the clip he released was shot on June 7, 2006, while the Double Deal team and the Browns were hanging around outside Raw Sugar Media in Dutchess County, New York. Laakko says he is the man in the chair next to Brown.
Here's a rough transcript of the video, which was filmed by the art director for Ayla's first album, according to Laakko:
Scott Brown: Uh, let's see…
Interviewer: Who else would you stalk?
Brown: …No, just kidding, that was a joke.
Brown: Uh, let's see, who would I stalk? That's a good [unintelligible]. You can get me [garbled] I'm taking pictures, I'm doing paperwork. How about, uh, probably one or all of those pussycat girls.
Interviewer: Oh there we go, the Pussycat Dolls
Brown: (Laughter) You know, whatever they are.
Laakko's first video ends with a title card that says, "On the next episode: Scott Brown discusses integrity. Here it is: