Thursday, July 27, 2006

Corker Character Questions Continue, Forcing Him To Spend More



NASHVILLE -- The Tennessean today joined a growing chorus of newspapers across the state decrying Bob Corker's dishonest television ads. Following a July 23 column by Knoxville News-Sentinel editor Jack McElroy labeling Corker's latest ad "a lie," the Tennessean today called Corker's ad "seriously misleading," "not true," and said Corker should "pull the ad and admit it's misleading." In response to the growing criticism, the Corker campaign announced that Bob Corker was putting in another $420,000 of his own money, upping his personal stake in his primary campaign to more than $2.1 million.

Ford for Tennessee issued the following statement in response:

"You can't buy character," said Ford campaign senior advisor Michael Powell. "Editorial boards across Tennessee and nonpartisan watchdog groups across the country are raising questions about Bob Corker's character. Yet despite overwhelming evidence that he is misleading voters, Bob Corker relentlessly clings to a lie. Why is it so hard for him to tell the truth?"

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Misleading ad does no credit to Corker's effort

By sticking with the ad, Corker is creating a character issue

Published: Thursday, 07/27/06

One of Bob Corker's television ads in his campaign for the U.S. Senate is seriously misleading.

That's bad, but the Corker campaign turned what should have been a one-day story into a character issue by sticking with the flawed assertion even after it was exposed.

Corker's original ad claimed that both of his GOP opponents, Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant, voted while in Congress to increase their pay.

That's not true.

The bill in question was the massive appropriations bill in 2000; Bryant and Hilleary both voted for it. But there was no language in the bill that increased congressional pay. In fact, Congress had structured the pay-raise issue so that increases were automatic unless Congress voted to kill the raises. And both Hilleary and Bryant supported an earlier provision that would have killed the pay raise. Both the Bryant and Hilleary campaigns claim their candidates have long records of voting against cost-of-living pay increases for lawmakers.

When the Corker ad aired last week, Hilleary and Bryant screamed that Corker was lying about their records. Objective sources backed them up. The ad should have been removed immediately. But Corker's campaign repackaged the ad: Instead of claiming Hilleary and Bryant voted to raise their pay, it now says that they "voted for a bill that the press said provided a $3,800 pay raise for themselves."

Technically, that assertion may be a bit truer. But in practical terms, the Corker campaign just dug itself into a deeper hole. No doubt, the press did point out at the time the bill passed that it would increase lawmakers' pay. And Hilleary and Bryant voted for it. Still Corker's claim ignores the votes Hilleary and Bryant cast to undo the pay raise. And it ignores that the 1,103 page bill was crucial to the operation of federal government.

Now both Hilleary and Bryant have new ads of their own where they denounce "Corker's lies."

This level of misrepresentation is common in political campaigns.

How many times have voters been told a candidate supported tax hikes when the candidate really supported bills that allowed local governments to make their own decisions on taxes?

But the commonness of deception doesn't make it right. Corker should pull the ad and admit it is misleading. Otherwise, all the assertions in his campaign, regardless of how long it lasts, could draw not just scrutiny but skepticism. •

Knoxville News Sentinel

McElroy: Civic dialogue suffers with negative ads


July 23, 2006

On the previous turn of the page, you saw that the News Sentinel endorsed Bob Corker for the Republican nomination to the Senate.

He's a great candidate, a likeable guy and a dynamic campaigner with a terrific record of achievement and service.

But, the truth be told, his recent campaign ad does tell a lie.

The ad says, in part, that Corker's opponents - former congressmen Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary - "voted to raise their own pay" while in Congress.

The accusation is "100 percent true," says Ben Mitchell, Corker's campaign manager.

No, it's not. Only by the most twisted manipulation of facts - and certainly not with a straight face - can that assertion be made.

Tom Humphrey, our reporter covering the campaign, revealed last Thursday what actually happened.

While in Congress, Bryant and Hilleary did vote to pass an omnibus appropriations bill at the end of 2000. The bill had nothing in it about congressional pay raises.

But, because it was the last appropriations bill of the year and didn't repeal the House's annual cost-of-living raise, the automatic raise kicked in after the bill's passage.

"Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary did something that career politicians often do. They included a pay raise in a larger package and hoped no one would notice," said Mitchell.

Again, no. They did quite the opposite. They voted time and again to try to block the automatic raise.

Why would the Corker campaign include something like this in a political ad? He is a strong candidate, well ahead in the polls and with far more money to spend than his opponents.

Besides, there are so many substantive issues to argue about. Why slip in a fib?

My guess is that the campaign just overreached. In the heat of the closing days, it overstated its case.

It's not surprising. All political attack ads distill - and perhaps distort - opponents' positions to try to make them look bad. Fairness and context are not a priority, to say the least.

Corker really was the last of the senatorial candidates to go negative. Now all three have attack ads.

What good do they do? Or perhaps more importantly, what harm?

Sadly, the mudslinging is what voters have come to expect. It influences their perception of politics and their trust in government.

The low blows become a model of civic dialogue and contribute to the spirit of divisiveness in our society.

And they drive off potential candidates, real leaders who simply don't want to get down in the dirt in order to serve in office.

During our editorial board's interview with U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan, I asked him if he had ever thought about running for the U.S. Senate.

"In Tennessee, you have to be mainly a TV politician to run statewide," he said, "and that is not for me."

Who can blame him?

Source: Ford For Tennessee Press Release

206 Days

Days of Congressional Inaction on Ethics

Above is the number of days that have passed since Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to bribing Congressman.

It is also the number of days in which Congress has failed to pass an ethics reform bill that would limit private travel, ski and golf junkets, and would call for a full disclosure of expenses by lobbyists on members of Congress.

It is time for Congress to step up and pass an ethics reform bill that would do all of the above. In addition, it is time to end the pork barrel spending system as we know it and establish an independent ethics commission that would review ethics complaints against members of Congress.

I am proud Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is fighting for that reform!

Read Congressman Ford's call for reform of the House rules here!