May 2, 2008
The two types of campaigns
By Bill Kraus
The incumbent sheriff of Dane County was asked to record automated telephone messages for the county board candidates he had endorsed for election or re-election. In the cases where it was appropriate he was also asked to note that the county’s deputy sheriffs' association had also endorsed the candidate.
The recordings were made late in the campaign and late at night in a period that all of us who have been involved in political campaigns know is chaotic at best.
A mistake was made in one case. The sheriff had endorsed a candidate, but the recording said the deputies had as well. They hadn’t. They had endorsed his opponent.
The aggrieved candidate protested as soon as he heard about the inaccurate calls.
His opponent apologized, contacted the local paper with a story about the mistake and with his retraction and apologized. He had the faulty tape pulled and had the sheriff made a new, corrected tape. The sheriff apologized as well and so did the county board chairman was in charge of producing the original recording.
At a hearing of the Dane County Election Commission after the whole episode was described and discussed and after another round of apologies, all those concerned made promises to tighten up the process so this would not happen again.
It was a civil conclusion to what all felt was an honest, non-fatal mistake.
In the same election sequence the campaign of Judge Michael Gableman for the state Supreme Court issued a letter signed by former Lieutenant Governor Margaret Farrow that said Gableman’s opponent had cast the deciding vote in a case that resulted in a convicted sex offender being released from custody and put back on the streets.
The charge was a mangled version of what the court decided and what the case was about, and, worse yet, ignored the fact that the offender had not been released but was still tucked safely away in the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Facility.
The Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee (on which I served), which played the role the Dane County Election Commission played in the previous case, called attention to the errors in the letter and asked the people running the Gableman campaign to “retract the statement and correct the record.”
There was no retraction, no correction, no apology.
An uncivil conclusion which reflected badly on the campaign, on politics, on the judiciary.
The only similarity between these two campaigns is that they were decided on the same day. The biggest difference in them was that the one that handled its problem more admirably and with more grace was the one that was the work of citizen politicians, amateurs if you will. The other campaign was the handiwork of what former president Gerald Ford described as “professional hired guns.”
Don’t kill all the lawyers, but do give some serious thought to eradicating the mercenaries who have shanghaied our political campaigns.
post a letter about this blog »