Political campaigns are important. They can help voters learn about candidates and issues, so citizens can make informed choices about the people who will represent and lead them. At its best, the political process can be a noble undertaking.
And then last week we saw some examples of … the opposite.
Of course, we’ve all become quite familiar with the campaign TV ads and bulk-mail flyers that traffic in half-truths and out-of-context quotes. Most citizens know that those ads aren’t the best way to gain balanced, fact-based information, but sadly they seem to be effective.
And sure, it’s expected that political operatives will try to spin reality, especially when some bad news comes out about their candidate.
Even so, it remains disrespectful to voters when political folks abuse the process and grossly misrepresent the truth.
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In Lincoln, for example, the conservative American Federation for Children published an attack flyer against a candidate for the Nebraska Legislature, George Dungan. It included weird, goofy photos intended to make Dungan look weird and goofy.
One problem: the photos weren’t of Dungan. They were photos of a friend of his, taken a decade earlier.
Incredibly, when informed the photos weren’t of their target, the group’s state director, Lauren Garcia, stood by the decision to publish them. She claimed “it’s reasonable to conclude the photos posted by Mr. Dungan are of himself.”
Nope. Not reasonable at all. Know what else isn’t reasonable? Refusing to apologize for such deception, intentional or not.
On the other side of the aisle, we saw a state Democratic Party official attempt to dismiss serious background-check findings about one of the party’s candidate, using the age-old ploy of attacking the messenger.
Last Sunday, The World-Herald published a story about Dave Pantos, who is running for Douglas County attorney. Reporter Todd Cooper found that Pantos had been forced to leave his job heading Legal Aid of Nebraska by the organization’s board after he had an affair with a subordinate he promoted. After initially denying the story, Pantos came back to Cooper two days later to admit the affair but denied promoting the woman because of it.
Douglas County voters can decide for themselves whether that aspect of Pantos’ record should be an important factor in their vote for county attorney. It’s certainly something they should know before the election and it’s something that a newspaper ought to report.
Evidently, Democratic Party chairwoman Jane Kleeb disagrees. In a tweet to her 23,700 followers last Sunday, she wrote: “Todd Cooper at the OWH just did a GOP hit job on @dpantos – an unsourced, unfair hit job on a consensual relationship he had 10 years ago. So I guess we will see hit pieces on Republicans next? Or is that only left to Dems who are beating Trump Republicans?”
Nope. Not “unsourced” at all. And it’s sad that Kleeb was reduced to falsely claiming that a legitimate news article about her candidate was “a GOP hit job.”
Cooper interviewed three attorneys who were intimately aware of the inner workings of Legal Aid — as well as Pantos himself, who eventually admitted the affair. While we won’t reveal our sources, everyone Cooper talked to for the Pantos story is a Democrat.
By the way, Republican officials who have gotten into hot water in recent years might be surprised to learn from Kleeb that The World-Herald gave them a free pass. (See Jeff Fortenberry, Mike Groene, Bill Kintner and others.)
Just last month, in fact, Cooper broke the story of a Republican-appointed judge who resigned in Dodge County amid questions about his relationship with a meth defendant.
Politics can be a tough business. The stakes often are high, so perhaps it’s understandable that political operatives will try to deflect attention from their campaign blunders or their candidate’s mistakes.
But we hope people see though the lame excuses and transparent efforts to shift blame.
Voters deserve more honesty and respect from our politicians and the people who work for them.
OWH Public Pulse September 2022
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Pulse writer says the public hearing about local property tax increases was a waste of time.
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Candidate Angie Lauritsen is truly capable of rising above partisan politics if elected to Legislative District 36, Pulse writer says.
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The University of Nebraska should stop wasting time and money and give the head coaching job to Mickey Joseph for the next five years, Pulse writer says.
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Nebraska's judicial accountability and oversight system is in need of significant reform, Pulse writer says.
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Tony Vargas brings a perspective that can better represent the interests of District 2, Pulse writer says.
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Pulse writers give praise to hard-working newspaper carrier celebrating 50 years.
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Cancelling thousands of dollars of federal student loan debt is a mistake, Pulse writer says.
Pulse writer says Malcolm X deserves to be the next induction into Nebraska's Hall of Fame.
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