Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Negative mailings mar Porter County Commissioner race

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Analysis

By KEVIN NEVERS

They’re the hit of the campaign season.

Collect ’em. Trade ‘em. Get ‘em while they’re hot and slimy.

They’re the anti-Bob Harper mailings “authorized and paid for by Valparaiso Republicans”—or, the latest ones, by “Valparaiso Republican Central Committee”—whoever they are, or it is.

And they’re worth a look, if only for an object lesson in gutter politics.

The first mailing was a doozy. Its allegation, not only demonstrably false but just plain weird: “Harper supports President Obama’s government takeover of healthcare.”

Other mailings followed, one after another, like the spam in your in-box flogging Mexican Viagra and Nigerian get-rich-quick schemes. And if the Obamacare allegation seemed, on the face of it, too outlandish and therefore undigestable—and certainly irrelevant to the local issues in Porter County—the subsequent ones at least had the ring of plausibility.

Here’s the best of the bunch: “Harper stood by and watched as Porter County increased the income tax on hardworking families. He actually skipped the meeting when the vote was taken.” For proof the mailing cites the Oct. 8 edition of the Times.

Call it a distortion wrapped in a deception masked in a flim-flam hidden in a humbug.

•Begin here. The Times story cited by the mailing paraphrases someone identified as “co-chair” of the “Valparaiso Republicans,” to the effect that “Harper also remained silent in May 2005 when the County Council doubled the county income tax, in part, to cover the county’s $3.5 million annual dues as a member of the RDA.” In other words, as evidence of their allegation in the mailing that Harper “skipped the meeting,” the “Valparaiso Republicans” cite as their authority not the Times at all but in fact the co-chair of the “Valparaiso Republicans.” Translation: “The ‘Valparaiso Republicans’ said that the ‘Valparaiso Republicans’ said that Harper skipped the meeting.”

•So let’s say Harper did skip the May 2005 meeting. It was never his meeting to attend in the first place. Harper is a Porter County Commissioner, and it was solely in the Porter County Council’s jurisdiction to increase the CEDIT to bankroll the RDA. The Porter County Commissioners had no say or sway in that decision.

•Yet in any case Harper’s opposition to any county income tax is well-documented and long-standing.

•But here’s the kicker. The “Valparaiso Republicans” would certainly like to convince those “hardworking families” on whose behalf they’re boo-hoo-hooing that they lament the CEDIT increase. But the fact of that matter is this: the RDA — the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority — is near and dear to Republican hearts, that CEDIT increase was a pre-condition of Porter County’s membership in the RDA, and it’s a tax which the Republicans can live with and expect you to as well.

Let’s break it down: the “Valparaiso Republicans” are smearing Harper because he didn’t attend a meeting he was under no obligation to attend, at which a CEDIT increase was enacted which they themselves supported and Harper opposed.

It’s a Big Lie, all right, and in its sheer gall and breathtaking audacity it makes the head spin.

Accompanying the latest mailings is this disclaimer from the “Valparaiso Republican Central Committee”: “Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.” On Thursday the Chesterton Tribune asked these questions of Harper’s opponent, Republican Nancy Adams, to whose campaign the “Valparaiso Republicans” contributed $3,000:

(1) Do you disavow the mailings? “I did not design or authorize them,” Adams said. “They don’t represent the kind of campaign I’ve done. Everything I’ve done is positive. . . . I can’t control what other people do. There will always be people in politics who jump in and do whatever they want to do. I can’t control that.” But Adams added this: “The information contained in them seems to be factual. It’s not a personal attack. It’s on the issues.”

(2) Are you then vouching for all of the allegations made by all of the mailings? “I haven’t seen all of them,” Adams said. “I think I’ve seen one and that was it. So I can’t say yes or no because I don’t know.”

(3) You say you can’t control what other people, not associated with your campaign, do. But you could return the moneys contributed to your campaign by the “Valparaiso Republicans.” Would you do so? Adams said in reply that she wasn’t aware of any contributions made to her campaign by the “Valparaiso Republicans” group. “I will check into that,” she promised.

Adams did express surprise over Harper’s indignant response to the mailings. “He calls them personal attacks and they are not personal attacks,” she said. “I don’t see why he can’t move on and do what he need to do for his campaign. . . . Why doesn’t he let them go and focus on what are the real issues of the campaign. He’s been in politics for 41 years.”

Perhaps the mailings aren’t personal attacks, in the highly technical sense that the “Valparaiso Republicans” aren’t specifically impugning Harper’s character and habits as a person. But any allegation which distorts, obscures, and falsifies the record has to be considered a personal attack.

There is also this sense in which they mailings are very personal: they reveal on the part of the “Valparaiso Republicans” themselves a seething anger toward Harper not readily explicable in terms of the issues.

Which begs the question voters really ought to be asking themselves: what exactly is at stake for the “Valparaiso Republicans” in Harper’s defeat—and Adams’ victory—which would prompt them to go so bitterly to the mud?

For the record, the Chesterton Tribune has not endorsed Democrat Harper’s bid for re-election to the Porter County Commissioners.

Nor has this paper endorsed any other candidate in any other race.

 

 

 

Posted 10/29/2010

 

 

 

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