Dirty Politics? It’s An Old Game.
Political campaign “hit” pieces go back to our earliest roots. Fun times the Colonists had. Thomas Jefferson created more than one newspaper to attack his enemies. His enemies were likewise ruthless against Tom. People say that politics today are the worst ever. We are not even close to the worst ever, but let’s address t
his week’s “hit” piece on the Tim Thomas campaign for Warner Robins City Council Post 4.
The “hit” piece at issue was on Tim Thomas. Tim is running for reelection and an entity called “Concerned Citizens for Warner Robins” sent out a mailer about Tim, pointing out some past lawsuits, financial issues and a vote for higher utility rates. Tim is thus disqualified to be a city councilman, or so the mailer states.
Anonymity is distasteful in politics. As I wrote last week, I’m a fan of politicians, and people, standing up and saying what they believe. Stop hiding. This is America, absent an occasional duel, we don’t go around killing people over their political stances. If you have a problem with a candidate, spill the beans but put your name on it. Betsy Loiacono, the opposition candidate to Tim, is a fine lady with a sterling reputation. She disavows any knowledge of the hit piece and says that her campaign mailers will have her name on it.
Is the mailer false? The mailer cites sources, but not context. Political ads don’t usually give the benefit of the doubt to the opposing side. Taking things out of context is part of the political process. Getting the rest of the story out falls to the aggrieved candidate. That can be costly, but also very powerful. If either candidate is seen as deceptive, they may lose more support than they get. Early voting also has reduced the opportunity for a last minute ambush. When half the voters go to the polls early, the dirt can’t wait until the weekend before the election like before.
So who sent the piece? We may never know. Anonymous mailers don’t violate the law, nor should they. However, I wish people stood up for what they believe. But before condemning the opponent, make sure the opponent is the one who sent it. Recently a Michigan legislator, Todd Courser, sent out an email, anonymously, claiming that Courser was having a gay affair and doing drugs. The email also accused his actual mistress, Cindy Gamrat, of being “a tramp, a lie and a laugh.” His bizarre theory was that it would be so outrageous that if news of his actual affair leaked out, no one would believe it either. Alas, both of them went down in flames, one resigned and the other was expelled from the legislature.
So who sent the “hit” piece on Tim? An enemy wanting retribution? Most likely answer. A friend thinking he’s helping? Could be, see above example. An opponent looking for traction? We may never know. But don’t immediately blame the opponent when you see a hit piece. There may be more to the story.
Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see.