Tag Archives: Right to Life

Right to Life might want to hire a proofreader (UPDATED)

UPDATE: I got this wrong. According to Sharon Torborg of the Right to Life Fund, state law requires that any name mentioned in campaign material must be reported on the Secretary of State’s mass media form. RTL endorsed Carolyn Branagan for Senate, and also mentioned the other two Republican candidates, Norm McAllister and Dustin Degree.

The Right to Life Fund is not endorsing Norm McAllister. My apologies to Ms. Torborg and the rest of the RTL crew. 

There’s a couple things I’m getting really tired of, as the primary campaigns enter the homestretch. The first is candidates whining about “Washington-style” attack ads. C’mon, folks, even in Vermont, politics ain’t beanbag.

The second is candidates bemoaning an influx of out-of-state money on behalf of their opponents — especially when the moaners are getting major outside backing themselves. None of these people are pure as the driven snow, and their complaints ring hollow in my ears.

So I don’t have much to say about the ex-Bear Stearns executives creating a Super PAC in support of Bruce Lisman, or EMILY’s List pouring $100K into pro-Minter ads, or a Silicon Valley tycoon spending twice as much for Matt Dunne. It’s the way the game is played in our post-Citizens United world, and any politico not named Bernie Sanders is practicing unilateral disarmament if they don’t take advantage of every available resource, The Vermont Way be damned.

But there is one recent mass-media spending report that should not pass unnoticed. It involves far less money, but there are a couple of things you should know.

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Endorsement or Recommendation? Seems to be no difference.

A few days ago, Phil Scott and Right to Life raised a bit of a stink about a TV ad from Dean Corren’s campaign, which sought to draw a distinction between Corren’s solid pro-choice record and Scott’s, which is mostly but not entirely pro-choice. And it pointed out that Scott had the backing of RTL.

The issue raised by Scott and his kinda-sorta friends at RTL is that the group has not “endorsed” the Lieutenant Governor, but merely “recommended” him.

“Recommended” does sound a bit less formal than “endorsed,” but is there really a difference?

Well, on Sunday, the Burlington Free Press issued its predictable endorsements of Governor Shumlin and Phil Scott. But it didn’t use the verb “endorse” anywhere on its editorial page.

In fact, the first sentence of the gubernatorial editorial says…

“The Burlington Free Press editorial board recommends Peter Shumlin for governor.”

The Scott editorial begins with…

“Vermonters should return Phil Scott to Montpelier as lieutenant governor.”

By Phil Scott’s standards, neither he nor the governor have been endorsed by Vermont’s Largest Newspaper. I hope he doesn’t claim otherwise.

Also, earlier today, my email inbox was graced by a missive from Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger on behalf of State Sen. Phil Baruth. I’ll have more to say on this later, but for now I’d simply like to note the wording:

“I want to put in a strong recommendation for… Phil Baruth.”

Hm. Guess that’s not an “endorsement” either.

Or, alternatively, Phil Scott has no basis for complaint about Dean Corren’s ad.

Ethical issues in Dean Corren’s TV campaign

Questions have been raised about a couple of Dean Corren’s TV ads. One of them claims that incumbent Lt. Gov. Phil Scott has been endorsed by Right to Life; another shows a series of high-profile politicos who’ve endorsed Corren, but includes a picture of two state senators who have not.

The former is explored by the Freeploid’s Nancy Remsen today. The ad in question features several women talking about reproductive rights. (Their names are not mentioned; one of them is state Democratic Party chair Dottie Deans.) They extol Corren’s support of reproductive rights, and then one of them says “Dean Corren is endorsed by Planned Parenthood; his opponent, by Right to Life.”

Kerfuffle ensues.

Phil Scott insists he is pro-choice, although he does support parental notification for minors seeking abortions, which is one of Right to Life’s pet causes. (It sounds fine in theory, but in practice, a lot of girls seeking abortions come from troubled homes. In some cases, they were impregnated by a family member. Parental notification opens a big fat can of worms.)

In fact, Right to Life has not endorsed Scott, but it has “recommended” him. Corren says this is a distinction without a difference: Scott has Right to Life’s support, if not technically the endorsement. The ad doesn’t mischaracterize Scott’s positions; it just points out that he’s backed by an anti-abortion group.

The Corren people could change the narration to say “Dean Corren is endorsed by Planned Parenthood; his opponent is supported by Right to Life.” The impact of the ad would be unchanged. I don’t think it’s that big a deal either way.

As for the other ad… it starts with Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsing Corren. (Well, technically, he says “I’m voting for Dean Corren,” so maybe Phil Scott would argue that that’s not an “endorsement.”)

And then, for a solid five seconds, there’s a still photo of several Dem and/or Prog officeholders posing together.

I hadn't realized our Auditor was so butch.

I hadn’t realized our Auditor was so butch.

From left to right, we have Sen. Ginny Lyons, Sen. Tim Ashe, Cong. Peter Welch, Auditor Doug Hoffer, Dean Corren, Sen. Phil Baruth, and Sen. David Zuckerman.

After that, the ad cycles through other images and names, and ends with Bernie.

But that one picture is the problem. Lyons and Ashe have not endorsed Corren. Lyons has pointedly not made an endorsement; Ashe has been silent.

The ad is factually accurate. It doesn’t claim endorsements from Lyons or Ashe. But the implication is obvious, and it’s misleading. That picture is on screen for five seconds, which is an eternity in TV ad time. And the big colorful campaign signs clearly identify the two senators, tying them visibly to the endorsement list.

Otherwise, the ad is excellent. It’s well-produced and effective. It drives home the point that Corren is supported by a broad range of liberal and progressive individuals and groups. But that one image is deceptive. It’s within the letter of the law, but violates the spirit. I’d expect better from Corren.