Incompetence from a well intentioned group, or a grifting operation supporting one candidate while pretending to be an “independent” expenditure committee? In the case of U.S. Term Limits and the race for Georgia House District 71, it could be either. Maybe both.
As is custom, interest groups spend the time between qualifying and an election trying to get candidates to fill out questionnaires and sign pledges. It’s a way to try to pin down would-be elected officials as well as exert influence over future votes.
For most groups, it stops there. For some, it grows into an operation that becomes part blackmail, part threat, and in some extreme cases – a way for a group to raise funds to put a thumb on the scale regardless of what the candidates’ actual positions in a race are.
Marcy Sakrison is running for House District 71 against incumbent Phillip Singleton. Singleton won the election in a special election for the East Coweta/West Fayette set held when David Stover vacated the seat. Stover himself originally won the seat in a special, as has now become a tradition if not a business model for certain seats.
One of the groups that collected pledges was U.S. Term Limits. Sakrison signed their pledge, which group acknowledged and thanked her for on May 6th:
Up until this point, everything is normal for a typical campaign and behavior of a special interest group. Then things became…special.
Shortly afterward, mail began to appear in mailboxes across HD 71 announcing that Sakrison “refuses” to sign the pledge.
The Sakrison campaign contacted U.S. Term Limits. Per a campaign spokesperson, they were told the mailers were coming from an Independent Expenditure Group and therefore there was nothing they can do about it.
The mailers continued, hitting mailboxes as recently as late last week/early this week:
What was most curious about the last mailer, is that on the same day, this one appeared:
So what’s going on here? Multiple incorrect mailings followed up by a single proper one after voting has started. That much can be stipulated. Motive is much harder if not impossible.
The fact remains, there were more negative hits on a candidate that HAD in fact signed a pledge than the one that was correct. Many more voters will see what arrives in the mailbox than whatever is put on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of a low-profile niche special interest group.
The use of IE’s to do the dirty work in campaigns is now common place. The candidates – and in this case even the master organization – can deny responsibility while others make sure the damage is done.
The benefit to enterprising consultants is that IE’s provide an excellent grifting opportunity. Donors can be whipped into a frenzy over their silver-bullet, this will fix the system pet issues. They don’t get to see how the money is spent, who gets the very lucrative rake/commissions, or that the money is even used on the issue for which it was solicited.
Not being a lawyer, I have questions. They start with one of liability. Was the last mailer one to give the IE a way to say “we corrected the error” while pretending the damage of the first few never happened? And what responsibility does U.S. Term Limits have to correct this record when an “Independent” group appropriates their name?
The great part of dishonest political grift is that it can be framed as well-intentioned incompetence. Cloaked in layers of non-disclosure, the unscrupulous can rail against the establishment while building a fiefdom, make some strong coin, and pretend to be outsiders rather than well connected insiders who know how to rig a system.
Is that what’s happening here? We’ll likely never know.
It’s sad to think that the best we can hope for is that these folks are just incompetent.