(Guest post from John Blankstein of Market Street Strategies, and general consultant to Willie Reynolds’ campaign for Bethlehem Mayor)
Willie Reynolds has attended 97% of Bethlehem City Council meetings since he was elected. His opponent knows that, and he also knows that Willie’s attendance record is better than his own. So how does Bob Donchez–who continually defends his negative ads as “documented and footnoted” get away with sending out mail with the lie that Willie doesnt show up?
Before answering that directly lets take a step back and look at the entirety of the smear campaign against Willie. His opponent has plucked private pictures off of facebook of Willie as a teenager mugging for the camera and mailed them out. He’s televised images of Reynolds’ head exploding. He’s used pictures of an actor wearing a ski mask next to bogus mis-explanations of Willie’s voting record on public safety. Many people tell me Donchez has described himself as a Republicat in private meetings for years, yet for this election he made up a non-existent “honor” called the Real Deal Democrat and bestowed it on himself and denied it to Reynolds. And of course he’s coddled a group of fewer than ten unemployed malcontents who are still angry about a ten-year old zoning decision and refer to themselves as a “Citizen’s Group” to criticize Reynolds’ record.
All this amidst $100,000 avalanche of negative ads–which could be closer to $150,000 by tomorrow’s election–that has longtime political watchers shaking their head. A Bethlehem resident who I would have guessed in December would be leaning Bob and is now a three-time donor to Friends of J. William Reynolds told me “it’s the most outrageous mail campaign I’ve ever seen–and I used to live in Jersey City!”
Now back to how these mailers lied about Willie’s attendance record. Donchez did indeed use factual public records to find out that Willie had missed a few meetings of the Bethlehem Area Library Board. And if your eyesight is really good you can read the footnote. But the word “library” is barely a quarter of an inch long and about an eighth of an inch high on a piece of mail that is standard letter size: 8 and half by 11 inches. By contrast an ad for cigarettes the same size as this mailer would be required include the Surgeon General’s warning printed over an 37.4 square inch area. My documentation is footnoted below.* This is an age-old trick, using facts out of context to imply a lie. If Donchez wanted voters to consider Reynolds’ record on the library board in considering him for mayor that would be one thing; instead he and his mail team misused a real fact to hide another real fact: that Reynolds has attended nearly all City Council meetings:
Donchez’ mailers also miss the fact that Reynolds’ work on behalf of the Bethlehem Area Public Library–from holding the suburban participants accountable for their fair share to advocating for the South Side Branch library improvements–has been praised and approved repeatedly by city leaders. Willie did miss a few meetings, which included some to do Obama campaign work and at least one to appear at a memorial fundraising dinner in honor of his good friend George Yasso’s father–but he was constantly in touch and up to date with the workings of the Library.
So who approved of Reynolds’ library work? Bob Donchez for one. City council approved Willie’s reappointment to the library board by a unanimous 7-0 vote just few months ago on February 5th.
Donchez supporters have told me personally that all this is negativity just “spirited” campaigning and providing important contrasts between the candidate. And that things will be back to “normal” on Wednesday the 22nd. Reynolds has rejected all efforts and suggestions to go negative in this race. As he says he’s going to “be the same guy the day before the primary as he is the day after.” And to me that’s the clearest contrast in Tuesday’s election.
* 15 USC § 1333 – Labeling; requirements; conspicuous statement. Retrieved May 18, 2013 at: http://www.law.cornell.