So, I finally have a little time to get back to the fallout from yesterday’s questionable Facebook ad from CD7* Dem Linda Weber, mocked up to look like a legit news org, Insider NJ, branded Weber’s primary opponent Tom Malinowski as a “tax cheat.” Here’s how I reported that last night here at BJ: CD7: Linda Weber campaign goes fake news, doctoring an ad to look like Insider NJ called Tom Malinowski a “tax cheat”
Look, it’s basic campaigning to present yourself in the best light, and call into question the decisions, votes, and statements of your opponents. And in the primary that means you may be drawing comparisons between yourself and candidates of your own party. This is politics. Some people have brought up the pledge moderator Jonathan Alter asked each CD7 candidate to make back in December at a candidate forum – would they pledge in the primary to obey what Ronald Reagan called the “11th Commandment,” thou shalt not speak harshly about a member of your own party. speaking harshly ill. Weber answered: “Absolutely, yes” and “One hundred percent.” (watch the promises at approx 1:08:10 in the video)
And no, she didn’t keep that pledge. Before I posted at Blue Jersey last night, I texted Weber for comment on her ad. I have not heard back from her, but I’ve had texts, emails and statements from Weber communications director Tara Dowdell. Weber is accusing Malinowski of breaking the law, and chose to do so in a deceptive ad. When I asked for proof of Malinowski breaking the law, the Weber campaign sent me these 3 documents – [Voter profile] , [Property Detail] & [Weber campaign statement] and this DC.gov link on homestead deduction qualifications. And this statement, which I posted last night:
“We did not alter the Insider NJ article; we simply linked to it from our ad because it provides documentation regarding Tom Malinowski’s tax issues. We stand by our ad particularly given that his own campaign manager is on the record admitting that he took an illegal tax break in Washington, DC. This is a legitimate issue for voters to be made aware of and a major liability in a general election.”
Tony Coppola, Linda Weber for Congress (via email, rec’d 10:36pm Weds)
I never said they altered the Insider post; I’m not sure if anyone said that. What they clearly did do is craft a Facebook ad that makes it look like Insider wrote something they didn’t. They’re taking no responsibility for running a deceptive ad, they just pivot to why it’s justified they did that. So let’s deal with that: maybe it is. Maybe the fact of Malinowski’s years running the D.C. office of Human Rights Watch, then his stint in the Obama administration as Assistant Secretary of State, are jobs that tend to require Washington residency. And that’s just Malinowski’s tough luck. Brand new (since last year) residency may open a candidate up to charges in the general (in this case from Rep. Lance) of carpet-bagging, and that’s the worry they want to leave you with, because one of the things Weber has to sell about herself is that she’s lived longer in the district.
So, the discussion of length of residency is a fair one for an opponent to bring up. My own opinion is that in the list of priorities of CD7 voters (and I am one), length of time living in district is way down the priority list, behind (a) can they win? (b) do their issues resonate with mine? (c) can I picture them succeeding in Congress? After all, Mikie Sherrill cleared the field, and made it all the way to “Red to Blue” and she doesn’t even live in CD11. Still. They have every right to bring it up. But I think if you do it in an ad that disreputable, if you’re that loose throwing around accusations somebody’s broken the law, there’s every chance it backfires.
Colston Reid, Malinowski’s campaign manager sent the following responses from his camp:
“To claim they did not produce a sponsored Facebook post to look like an InsiderNJ article is categorically false. You can’t deny something so many people saw. The reality is that the Weber campaign intentionally manufactured a piece of propaganda for the purpose of misleading voters. This is exactly why early in our campaign we took a pledge to keep a public record of all digital advertising produced by our campaign At the time we did so with the intention of insulating ourselves against dark advertising by Republicans. Not once did we consider such a dishonest tactic would be employed by a fellow democrat.” [snip]
“Since our initial conversation regarding Tom’s DC property, we have confirmed that Tom has in no way financially benefited from the Homestead Deduction since returning to New Jersey. His last property tax payment was due on 9/15/17 which covered the period of 2017 in which his DC home was his primary residence.
His next property tax bill is not due until 3/31/18 which will cover the period of time he has been a resident of Rocky Hill. As stated in our last conversation, Tom has already taken steps to alert the Washington DC Department of Taxation and Assessment that he no longer qualifies for the Homestead Deduction as a primary resident of New Jersey. Tom will not receive that deduction on his next property tax bill covering the period of Sept. 16 through present.”
* Note: A member of my household is running the CD7 campaign of Goutam Jois