Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More and more for the Dispatch Editorial Board to be ashamed of.

Over the last week, I've gotten increasingly angry with the Columbus Dispatch Editorial Board. In the guise of decrying negative campaigning, they've engaged in, abetted, and inspired muck-wallowing on a scale that can only depress turnout. This is a simultaneous direct and indirect attack against Democrats. I've already covered the inexplicably flagrant disregard for the truth in trying to pin labels like "shrill" and "smear" on the campaigns of Emily Kreider and Bob Shamansky.

But it gets worse. Less than a week after publishing the false statement that Emily Kreider had engaged in "shrill and sometimes ill-consisered attacks," her opponent is using this fabrication in- wait for it- a negative attack ad. Way to f'ing go, Dispatch.

So what happens then? BSB reports that Goodman's brother-in-law is a political reporter for the Dispatch, calling their integrity into question. Believe it or not, I'm not actually a big fan of that, and I wouldn't have gone there. The Republicans (and in the context of Elections, the Editorial Board of the Dispatch has to be included in that label) engage in plenty of concrete, documentable acts of dishonesty and sleaze. Implying sleazy acts that can't be proven probably just plays into this voter depression strategy. I am, however, sympathetic to BSB, because we've all watched Democrats go down playing nice, and on the other hand, the Dispatch climbed into the pigpen, so it's hard to have sympathy for them.

Which sort of brings up my next point, that there are plenty of examples of campaigns where the Republican has been a much dirtier campaigner than the Democrat, but very difficult (impossible?) to name a race on the ballot in Central Ohio where the opposite pattern applies. So the Editorial Board picks two races where they can make an argument for equivalence and one where they can't (but assert it anyway). That's not the story this year.

The story is up and down the ballot, stories like that of Beverly Campbell, running in the 20th OH House District:

Its Bev here again. I read both the Dispatch article and your blog concerning the outrageousness of the attack and smear ads. I'm surprised that neither seem to have seen the continuous character assassination directed at me by Jim McGregor and the Republican smear machine. In all of the direct mail pieces as well as the TV ads, they have sunk to new levels of slime. Today my campaign is filing 5 Election Commission Complaints against McGregor, ORP, Bob Bennett, OHRCC and Wm. Coley for disseminating patently false, deliberately misleading and deceptive ads directed to the voters of the 20th District in order to try and "save" McGregor's seat for the Republicans. I have also been advised by counsel to consider filing a civil action personally against all of the same defendants for defamationa and slander. I may well do that.

Yet, standing in the lobby of the Vineyard Church, Jim McGregor and I shook hands and pledged before God that our campaigns would not stoop to those levels and engage in negative campaigning and the politics of personal destruction. He ratified and repeated that pledge standing in front of me and the editorial endorsement interviewers at the Dispatch. Yet TWO DAYS LATER McGregor's smear campaign against me personally started. NOT ONCE has he or his party ever attacked my position on the issues!

Maybe Jim McGregor doesn't understand the meaning of a handshake or a pledge? Or maybe his word is not worth much. I have not "gone negative" but I do intent to get this truth out there. We will be having a press conference about this.

I can argue or whine or whatnot, but really, the defense is obvious. Negative campaigning makes people want to stay home. The only way for Republicans to win in OH-12, State Senate 3, or State House 20, is for Democrats and (especially) Dem-leaning Independents to sit this one out.

Don't let it happen. The Dem base for Shamansky is the Franklin County portion of OH-12, which happens to have considerable overlap with both OHSS-3 ond OHSH-20. Getting out the vote for the Kreider or Campbell campaign may be the very best thing you can do for the Shamansky campaign. Do something positive. Get involved this weekend.


Political Outcast said...

Democrat whining about Republican negative ads is pretty hilarious, seeing that the first ads that Mary Jo Kilroy and Bob Shamansky aired were negative, ads that tended to stretch the truth.

Negative ads will not keep people home. People on both sides are angry and will have their voices heard. They never have and never will, so saying that is wrong.

And I've seen the allegations against Ms. Campbell. Are the false? Is Mr. McGregor slandering you? If so, then Rep. McGregor will be punished at the polls. If they are not, then the voters will judge you on them as they should.

Another question that I have is this: What is your definition of a 'smear campaign'? It seems to me that in your eyes, smear campaign is when you discover valid questions about your opponent and air them.

bonobo said...

You're better than this, P.O.

#1, I said that the Dispatch gave an example for the Kilroy Campaign, and I accepted that.

#2, the first ad Bob Shamansky aired was the endorsement by John Glenn.

#3 Do you prefer the recent (studies show that negative ads can reduce turnout - WaPo 10/27/06,) or the classic: In "Going Negative: How Attack Ads Shrink and Polarize the Electorate," the political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar offer the latest, and for fans of participatory democracy perhaps the most discouraging, theory of how ads affect our political culture. By the authors' account, it is not so much what negative advertising persuades viewers to do that matters; it is what it persuades them not to do. Such ads, Mr. Ansolabehere and Mr. Iyengar maintain, encourage viewers to opt out of electoral politics altogether, and they are used strategically by candidates who believe they would benefit from a low turnout. "Political advertising -- at least as it is currently practiced -- is slowly eroding the participatory ethos in America," they write.

Mr. Ansolabehere, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Mr. Iyengar, a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, base their dispiriting conclusions on an exhaustive set of experiments involving some 3,500 potential voters.
NYT Review of Books, 01/14/96, or would you prefer a bibliography?

#4a Mr. McGregor is not slandering me. I am providing a forum where Ms. Campbell has the opportunity to accuse her opponent of making unfair and misleading statements about her.

#4b If he is in fact slandering Ms. Campbell, he will be punished at the polls IF voters know about and understand his calumnity.

#5 A smear campaign is one in which A) the attacks have nothing to do with one's ability to perform the duties of the office, striking instead at the personality or character of the opponent, and B) are unsupported, supported with misleading and/or distorted evidence, or supported by hearsay or other non-credible evidence.

For instance, accusing Mr. Shamansky of criminal activity including fraud and tax evasion is a smear campaign, and were he not a public figure, might well be actionable. Accusing your opponent of supporting an unpopular president on vote after vote is not. Likewise, calling Mr Shamansky wrong on Iraq is not a smear campaign.

Do you consider the fact that the Dispatch employs David Goodman's brother-in-law to raise valid questions about the Dispatch's motivation in endorsing him?

Bev Campbell said...

Allow me to point out to "Political Outcast" that his analysis and predicted outcome only holds up if there is a way to get the truth out there. Since I am not awash in money like the Republican Party, it makes it rather difficult. Ah, so one might say, the newspapers would cover it for nothing: consider this, that if the newspapers cover it for nothing, they would not sell as many ads would they? So maybe it is not in their economic interest to cover it for nothing. $$$ - that is how the Republicans manipulate and dominate the system!

Political Outcast said...

The problem that I have in accepting the notion that negative ads suppress turnout is that in neither one of this article have you given me any stats. The possibility of suppression I will concede, but would it be a significant number? Is it possible that those voters were potential voters and weren't voting anyway?

4a. The question was geared toward Ms. Campbell, not you.

4b. It's not hard to find out; the literature and ads always provide citations.

5. The questions of Bob's residence are very relevant. Could Tiberi have used better language than the charged words he did? Yeah. But if Bob has questionable residency issues, they should be posed.

6. No. I've heard about the CD in years past. It was once what the SNP is now, a rag used to promote a certain agenda. Do you think it's possible that they board saw and heard nothing about Emily Krieder that made here endorsable?

BillyBob said...

I saw a Pro Campbell TV ad this morning on NBC 4 , paid for by the ODP. Good to see them steping up to the plate. I hope they do the same for Kreider. BTW I saw a poll in Campbell's race and she is polling above 50% also. Outcast may not be the only Political Outcast come Nov. 8th.

Bev Campbell said...

All that glitters is not gold and all that's footnoted is not true. How many people actually follow the footnotes and check it out? Very very few. And those who use that tactic know and count on that. Had anyone truly followed the "footnotes" on the character assassination pieces about me, they would see there was really nothing there but air. That's why the Election Commission Complaints were filed. The law punishes ads made that were "false or with reckless disregard as to their falsity." The disservice to voters is that how many of the people who received the false information ever learn of the Election Commission decision when the victum of the attack doesn't have the treasure chest of the Republicans. That's one way our elections are purchased and the people do not get the best representatives.

Political Outcast said...

You know bob, I'm just gonna wait until the elections to worry about what terrible things Democrats will do if elected. And in case you've forgotten, John Kerry was winning in all of the polls here leading up to Election Day......think about that.

BillyBob said...

That was than, this is now. We will see. It ant so bad you know. As for me I think this is good for us all. Good luck.

bonobo said...


Now we're getting somewhere. Re-reading your original response, I can see that you meant to address Ms. Campbell, and that she has responded in the meantime. I can only add that while she is pursuing this issue as an official violation of election law, I'm more concerned with intent to deceive. I'll give you an example from our side. MoveOn aired a series of anti-Pryce ads that accused her of being caught red-handed voting for the special interests that fund her campaigns, while showing indicted Republicans like Bob Ney with red hands in the background. There was not a single untrue statement in that ad, but it clearly implied that Deb Pryce had engaged in criminally corrupt activity. That ad really ticked me off. It weakens our credibility when talking about indisputably corrupt Republicans, and it damages our credibility when we talk about Deb Pryce's very real faults. MoveOn would probably call me a wimp, as Republicans do this all the time, and win elections doing it.
There are signs in convenience stores that say selling cigarettes to minors is not just wrong, it's against the law. What a frickin' commentary on our morality as a society. The way I was raised, the sign would say 'It's not just against the law, it's wrong.' Morality should trump legality. At least for people who want to represent us.

Anyway, as to the depressed turnout issue, it does turn out to be more complicated. In lab studies like the 'classic' link I provided, attack ads had a significant effect on reducing voter motivation. The two biggest problems in assessing the actual role of campaign negativity on turnout, however, are that different types of negative ads tend to have different effects, and that ecological validity (the extent to which a study in the lab is applicable to the outside world) is a bigger problem in this arena than in most. So what we see are a bunch of studies that suggest personal attacks depress turnout, but it depends on what you mean by attack. On the other hand, a smaller number of studies have shown no effect on turnout from negativity, but the logic of hypothesis testing in the social sciences pretty much will not allow you to conclude that something does not exist. There are apparently a few studies which show that under certain conditions, some kinds of negative ads can increase voter motivation. My feeling is that the weight of the evidence supports turnout depression, and that your original statement that 'It has never happened' vastly overstates the case, but the jury is still out and is likely to remain so.

As far as Shamansky's residence is concerned, I addressed that on the main page. I agree that residency is a legitimate issue, and that if a candidate wants to run in a district in which he or she does not reside, they should be up-front about it. Would Bob have switched his voter registration back to his Bexley home if he had not planned on running for office? Probably not, and that's a fair point to make. Was there a scam or a sham or a crime involved? No.

Which brings me to our final source of disagreement. The Dispatch can endorse whomever they choose, for whatever reason they choose. They tend to endorse incumbents, and although I tend to look at eight years in this legislature as more of a negative than a positive, reasonable people can disagree. My problem wasn't with the things that they liked about Goodman or didn't like about Kreider, it was the bit at the end that they just made up. I have a number of posts up on the blog called 'Why I don't make the ads,' referring to the fact that *I* have a tendency to say things in a shrill and ill-considered manner at times, but the candidates I support have been surprisingly good at staying focused on message. If the Dispatch had said "we neither saw nor heard anything that made her endorsable," it would have stung, but I would have taken them at their word. They went beyond that, made an untrue assertion about her campaign and character, and gave cover to her opponent in making that smear. As far as it goes, the election issue for Emily is in bounds, as long as people understand the issue. I tend to think it's a nothingburger, but some folks might not. Heck, in a low turn-out mid-term, the majority of voters are probably the ones who never miss a single election, and it'd be clever reach for a critical demographic. If it was done without the statehouse and leadership for change crap that give away the intent to deceive.

So I wasn't complaining about negative ads per se, I was complaining about what I defined as smears. The first mass media attck on Emily's character didn't come directly from the Goodman campaign, and I said I didn't blame him/them. It came from the Dispatch Editorial Board, and I do think they should be ashamed. And BTW, the Dispatch kind of seems like the Wall Street Journal to me, in that many of the reportesrs are pretty damned good at what they do (most of the time), but the Editorial Board has its own agenda. I've tried to be careful and indicate that it's the E.B. that I'm pissed at. Because of this, I agree that the in-law thing is more likely than not to be irrelevant. My point is that this is what happens in the gutter, which is why I wish the CDEB had stayed out of it.

Believe it or not, PO, I enjoy your comments (or I wouldn't spend so much time responding). I hope you'll still drop by after Tuesday.