David Sorensen reminds me of the kid who murders both of his parents and then asks the judge for mercy because he’s an orphan.
Sorensen, in case you don’t know him yet, is the new communications director for the Maine Republican Party.
His primary job between now and Nov. 6 is to think up new and ingenious ways to knock heavily favored independent Angus King off stride in his battle with Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill to become Maine’s next U.S. senator.
So what has Sorensen done lately?
Let’s take a look.
On one hand, he just put out the third of a planned 10 “Tall Tales” looking back at King’s record as governor from 1994 through 2002.
The first two focus on the state’s gas tax and on legislative machinations that once helped Gov. King and Democratic lawmakers pass state budgets with simple-majority votes.
The third installment, released Wednesday, recalls how the quasi-independent Maine Turnpike Authority borrowed money to help fill a fiscal pothole for the Maine Department of Transportation.
Weighty stuff, to be sure. Yet, complained Sorensen in an interview Thursday, “what’s not being picked up by the Maine media is our attention to policy details.”
Which brings us to what is being picked up by Maine’s media — also compliments of Sorensen and his fellow GOP operatives.
Late last week, the King campaign launched (literally) its first television ad — a high-tech production that uses Google Earth to zoom from outer space all the way down to King standing in his front yard.
Within hours, Sorensen put out a press release entitled: “Does King Illegally Use Google Technology in New TV Ad?”
“Did the campaign get permission from Google to use their corporate logo, or are they playing fast and loose with the laws and trying to pull a fast one on Mainers?” Sorensen asked in the release.
The answer, for the record, is yes, no and no. In fact, King’s campaign eventually produced the actual contract under which the campaign paid $418.95 to use Google Earth in its ad.
So why, pray tell, didn’t Sorensen simply call the King campaign and ask before he put out his release?
“We were just posing the question,” Sorensen replied. “We were doing the investigative reporting and vetting that we think should be done and, frankly, we don’t see a lot of.”
Investigative reporting? Vetting? How about accusing the other side of breaking the law without first making any effort whatsoever to ascertain the readily available truth?
“No comment,” Sorensen said. “I’m not going to go down that road.”
Then let’s go down this one: The Google non-scandal had no sooner evaporated when Sorensen penned another release under the headline: “Angus King’s First TV Ad Is Illegal.”
Well, it goes like this: Federal election rules require that a candidate advertising on his or her own behalf appear on-screen and state, “I approved this message,” or something to that effect. Which, in the ad, King clearly does.
The rules also require that the ad state in legible type that the candidate’s campaign committee paid for the message. King’s ad does that, too.
Finally, the rules require that the written text also repeat the spoken assertion that the candidate, in addition to paying for the ad, authorized it. King’s ad failed to do that — and therein, according to Sorensen and the GOP, lies the smoking gun.
“Angus King should promptly take down his ad, correct it, and apologize to the people of Maine for neglecting the very laws he says are so important for clean and fair elections,” Sorensen fumed in the release.
Seriously? A retraction and apology for saying “approved” orally but not repeating it in writing? Is this the best Maine’s GOP can come up with?
This week, the Republicans recorded King’s ad, dubbed in a voice-over mocking the candidate and put it up on YouTube. Just a thought, but did they pay their $418.95 to Google before doing so?
“That was thoroughly vetted by our lawyers,” Sorensen asserted, “and it’s perfectly legal and comports with the law.”
It’s also history. Not long after the GOP posted the spoof, it vanished.
“The King campaign, in a retaliatory stunt, flagged it for copyright violation on YouTube and YouTube took it down. We did not take it down,” Sorensen said.
All of this from the man who laments that “policy details” aren’t getting enough attention in a race that could well determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill.
Now let me be the first to agree with Sorensen when he notes, quite correctly, that Maine’s media outlets ultimately decide how much play this drivel gets day in and day out.
I long for the day when news organizations, this newspaper included, relegate these “stories” to the briefs (or the blogs) because that, at best, is where they belong.
But to complain that the silly stuff is getting all the attention, even as you churn out more and more silly stuff after paying your lawyers good money to “vet” it, well that’s just plain hypocrisy.
“I wouldn’t classify failure to comply with federal law as ‘silly stuff,’” Sorensen countered. “And I’m not complaining about that coverage. I’m just saying the people of Maine should get substantive issues as well.”
They do — witness this newspaper’s ongoing “Truth Test” series on political ads and our coverage of King’s role as a director of the Bank of Maine and his recent activities as a developer of wind energy, to name but a few.
As I finished chatting with Sorensen, I actually fantasized what it would be like if all of us — the media, the political parties, even the candidates — collectively decided to stop dumbing down this race because that’s all we think many Maine voters can handle.
Then I saw King’s just-released, second TV ad starring a Godzilla-like monster — who audibly burps at the end.
And I clicked on my inbox to find this from the Maine GOP: “Angus Squirming Over Illegal TV Ad.” (The King campaign allegedly has wavered on whether to insert the word “authorized” into its outer-space ad.)
Harrumphs Sorensen’s latest release: “If this is how Angus would run his U.S. Senate office — neglecting federal law and failing to get his positions straight — then Mainers would be in for a long six years.”
We’ll leave that one up to the voters on Nov. 6.
In the meantime, we’re in for a long seven weeks.
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: