Get ready to get slimed – with misleading, even false, election ads. Usually paid for by “independent expenditures” that can’t be linked directly to a particular candidate, they often cherry-pick something from an opponent’s voting record and then blow it out of proportion.
It’s already happening in the 25th Legislative District, where a TV ad is tarring House candidate Dawn Morrell for a vote she took back in 2009.
According to The News Tribune’s Political Smell Test, Morrell voted yes on Senate Bill 5525 – a bipartisan bill prime-sponsored by Republican state Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood. It provides rent vouchers for released offenders of up to $500 a month for no more than three months. They must be under Department of Corrections supervision, live in DOC-approved housing and participate in transitional programs to help them readjust to society.
But because a controversy has been brewing in the district over a proposed group home for released offenders, an ad funded by House Republicans has slammed Morrell for helping enable the home to exist and offenders to pay rent. It falsely describes SB 5525 as “allowing group homes for sex offenders and convicted criminals in our neighborhoods.”
It does no such thing. The law made no changes to where former criminals are allowed to live.
If Morrell was wrong to vote for SB 5525, then wasn’t Carrell wrong for sponsoring it? Why aren’t House Republicans going after him? He’s up for election, too. Other Republican senators who voted for the legislation include Pam Roach, Joe Zarelli, Dan Swecker and Mike Hewitt. Is anyone accusing them of being soft on criminals and making it easier for sex offenders to live next door?
The rationale behind the sensible, bipartisan legislation was that it provided a responsible way to help offenders transition into society while saving the state money. Inmates eligible for early release who don’t have an approved place to live and a way to pay for it must stay in prison – at a much higher cost than those vouchers. Then they get out and – having served their full sentence – aren’t required to enroll in the kind of transitional programs or treatment that might decrease their chances of re-offending.
The ad slamming Morrell is one of the sleazier examples of taking a legislator’s vote out of context. But it surely won’t be the only one this election cycle, and both parties will be guilty of doing it.
Voters need to view this kind of ad with skepticism and consider the source. Any ad that focuses on one vote a candidate took is very likely trying to manipulate voters; they shouldn’t fall for it.