Lies, BS, and Campaign Ads

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I was driving my 7 year old to school the other day and she commented on an ad she saw on TV. Basically, she said she wouldn't vote for one of the candidates because she heard he wanted to get rid of social security and she didn't think that was fair. While I agreed that wasn't fair, I also pointed out that most claims in ads are not true, or at least only partially true.

This year is no exception. If you are unlucky enough to live in the Mid-Michigan Area, you probably have seen the ads for Mark Schauer and Tim Walberg. I would seriously consider not voting for either of them based on how bad those ads are. That being said, they are not all that unusual. We are often treted to negative ads where one candidate distorts the record and positions of their opponent. Fortunately, a voter has some fact checking resources and can see what is what with a minimal amount of effort.

This isn't always the case. In the last few weeks, I have started to see ads for the Michigan Supreme Court. They started off with the typical "tough on crime" and "fair and just" type. Michigan, unfortunately, has s system where we elect the Supreme Court for a fixed term. The Court gets little coverage and I would guess that most people couldn't name a single Justice. Most people that are running just try and get their name out and hope that voters will remember come election time. Another interesting aspect of our state is that Justices are non-partisan. While this seems like a good idea, both parties still claim their candidates and run ads. In addition, a variety of other advocacy groups run ads.

These ads are especially annoying because they rely on people's ignorance of how the State Supreme Court works and present an overly simplistic view. They will take a case where a Justice may have supported the free speech rights of some obnoxious bigot and say that it shows the Justice supports the bigot. This is simply not true and is grossly unfair.

There is an ad that is being run against candidate Bob Young that was paid for by several environmental groups. I couldn't find that ad, but found a very similar one that was put out by the Michigan Democratic Party. Here it is:

Holy Shit! Bob Young would let polluters off the hook. That isn't good and voters certainly deserve to know if he would, or did, do this. The TV ad focuses mostly on the claim that Young would prevent citizens from being able to sue a company that perpetrated some major BP-style disaster. In support of this, they list a case at the bottom of the screen in tiny print, MCWC v. Nestle, 479 Mich 280 (2007). I was skeptical and wondered if this case could show that Young was as bad as the ad says.

The above mentioned case deals with an environmental group that sued Nestle to enjoin them from operating a bottled water plant in Michigan. I remember when this was going on and it was controversial. The rather dull 36 page case boils down to a question of standing. Young basically said that in regards to one of the lakes, the plaintiffs did not have standing and could not proceed. Standing is legal principal that goes back hundreds of years and was the topic of many of the first cases heard by the US Supreme Court. It has been well litigated and is very well established. In order to have standing, a plaintiff must establish 3 things:

1. Injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury—an invasion of a legally protected interest that is concrete and particularized. The injury must be actual or imminent, distinct and palpable, not abstract. This injury could be economic as well as non-economic.

2. Causation: There must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, so that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and not the result of the independent action of some third party who is not before the court.

3. Redressability: It must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that a favorable court decision will redress the injury.

Young said that the plaintiff did not satisfy the first requirement. The facts showed that none of the plaintiffs lived on or near the lake in question, so that they could not have suffered any injury. What the group should have done was add a plaintiff that lived on that lake. There is a ton of case law that supports Young's conclusion and it is not an area of law that is all that novel. In other words, Young most likely made the right decision that was supported by past cases, both at the state and federal level.

Young may very well be a tool of corporations, but this ad is deceptive and misleading. I have a hard time making the leap from that decision to say that he would allow polluters to have a free ride. I should note that I am in no way endorsing Bob Young, nor do I want to just pick on the people that oppose him. I would like to point out that if you are going to vote for a Supreme Court Justice, you should be basing your decision on logic and reason, not BS conjecture.


steves 6:53 AM  

I do want to stress that I am not letting the GOP off the hook. They are certainly guilty of running deceptive ads. They have an attack ad against Supreme Court candidate Alton Davis that is not true, but the anti-Young ads are just too bad to ignore.

Chris Of Rights 7:56 AM  

Well done.

I found this interesting analysis today:

Very timely.

I doubt the Republican really wants to get rid of Social Security, either. That's been part of the Democratic election playbook for as long as I've been alive.

Not that I'm excusing Republicans. They have their own election playbook.

Actually, that's one of the refreshing things about the Tea Party candidates. They don't know the playbook and aren't using it (for the most part), and instead are just talking about the problems in Washington. That's easier to do as the minority party, of course.

The proof of these Tea Partiers will come in how they legislate over the next two years, and how they run their campaigns as incumbents. Then we'll know if they really have the character we hope they do, or if they fall prey to the Washington machine.

Bob 8:37 AM  

Actually in this case, I think the Republican actually DOES want to eliminate or "privatize" social security considering he was on tape saying so. That is beside the point of Steve’s post though.

This post is a good one and I hope to also teach my kids the critical thinking skills needed to filter all the crap in the media. It is pretty tough though, especially when we vote for judges or very technical ballot proposals. I could not have done the analysis Steve did on Bob Young's record. Few of us could.

To Chris’ point: For the Tea Partiers who get elected, I am betting their time in office is seen as a failure, but not necessarily due to anything they do. We vote these people in expecting immediate results as if they are a dictator running a command and control economy. They need to work within the system to get anything done, but if they work within the system, they will be branded as a sellout.

Chris Of Rights 9:30 AM  

Privatize is not the same as eliminate despite Democratic claims to the contrary.

I don't expect immediate results from the Tea Party. I do expect them to stand for the principals they have campaigned for.

The sad thing is that we don't expect that of other politicians.

If the Tea Party candidates are failures, then it's our government that is the failure.

Smitty 2:54 PM  

If the Tea Party candidates are failures, then it's our government that is the failure.

I don't know if that logically follows. If they are failures, maybe it's because their ideas suck. Or that they didn't think them through. Or that there's not enough of them to institute the change they want instituted. Or...or...or...on and on. Maybe the public support isn't there that they think there is. Or maybe, like the Dems, they get elected, pass stuff the public ends up hating, and get voted right back out themselves!

All that to say that if they hypothetically control Congress and end up failing in their goals, it doesn't mean government is broken.

That said, Chris, I have always been grumpy with equating "eliminate" with "privatize." I agree with you. I suppose it is "eliminating" it as we know it, and I don't think privatization is better, but it is incorrect to equate the two. Always bugged me as a campaign tactic.

Good post, Steve. I, of course, hate most of Young's other decisions that aren't some procedural cop-out (like saying it was OK for a judge to side with the corporation that just gave him a gazillion campaign dollars or that in property casualty cases saying that "specific" ACTUALLY means "general" for fuck's sake...) but for this election, Young wins on incumbency, and Davis, though a brand new incumbent, narrowly edges-out Kelly (who has a GREAT judge name...Michigan loves them some Irish women candidates).

steves 3:40 PM  

Obviously, I have no problem with people choosing one judge over another, but I think it should be based on reality. I think Young is a decent Justice, for the most part, and I will probably vote for him. I tend to favor a balanced Court, so I will also vote for Davis, who has a reputation for being very fair and courteous to people that appear in his court.

If the Tea Party candidates are failures, then it's our government that is the failure.

Yeah, I don't know if this logically follows, either. Time will tell if their ideas are any good. We don't really have any of them running here, so I will have to say that I am not following them all that closely.

Jay 11:23 AM  

I would take this a step further and say that Chris' statement seems to me to be antithetical to one of the Tea Party (and, I guess, the GOP) central messages: personal responsibility.

If a candidate (or a supporter) suggests that government is too large and everyone has to step up and take personal responsibility and then, a priori, states that "the system" is to blame if the candidates "fail", how is that not violating one of their central messages?

Mr Furious 12:16 AM  

Thankfully they haven't figured out a way to interrupt my Netflix streaming with political ads. Yet.

Chalk another one up to ditching all forms of "broadcast" television...

As for Walberg v. Schauer, if I was as stupid/shallow as the average voter who decides based on attack ads, the influence of yard sign graphic design is at least as important.

Democrats nearly always win this in a romp. 2004 was the exception that proved the rule—Bush/Cheney stickers and signs were much better than Kerry/Edwards.

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