September 14, 2012

Bill Nemitz: GOP fires more silly stuff at Angus King

By Bill Nemitz

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.

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Tune in to NewsRadio 560 WGAN at 8:08 a.m. today to hear Bill Nemitz talk about this column and other issues.

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?

Long pause.

"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."

How so?

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.

(Continued on page 2)

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