Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Wednesday, September 27

Auditor: Ad Attacking Sykes (D) is So-o-o Wrong

I have a rule about counting to ten before publishing a post, but in this case it wouldn't do any good. The Ohio Republican Party has a travesty of an ad, so far only posted on YouTube but possibly headed for TV, that uses excerpts of floor debate by Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) to smear her as a "tax raiser." This ad is wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to start.

First, the entire tax-raiser charge is fundamentally misplaced in a race for state auditor. That official has ab-so-lute-ly nothing to do with imposing or increasing taxes. Sykes couldn't use her powers as auditor to raise Ohio taxes if she wanted to. The auditor's only connection to tax revenue is making sure it's properly handled AFTER it has been collected.

Second, the two statements on which the smear is based are taken completely (and deliberately) out of context. The first ("I am a liberal Democrat") is part of a larger statement that conservatives should like: "I am a liberal Democrat who strongly supports businesses. I support free enterprise and I love competition." The second comment ("I think that people should work so they can pay their taxes because we need their money") was a sarcastic aside in a debate about prohibiting doctors from making certain referrals for in-patient hospital services. The context had nothing to do with raising taxes, as ORP spokesman John McClelland conceded to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Also, if you think about the second comment, it's all about good conservative values like hard work and living up to one's obligations. The most you can read into it is that taxes should be paid, not that they should be increased.

Third, and this one really gets me, the ad is yet another violation of copyright law. Everything you need to know about this issue is reported in the Akron Beacon Journal here. ORP Chairman Bob Bennett (a lawyer) says that using the clips of Rep. Sykes is fair game because it was taken during a public debate using taxpayer dollars. Wrong:
House Clerk Laura Clemens and Dan Shellenbarger, the executive director of The Ohio Channel, which produced the video, say the clip is copyrighted and should not be used.

"They can link to our Web site but they can't actually use a clip," said Clemens, a Republican appointee.

The Ohio Channel, once a state-funded entity, is now a private, nonprofit arm of WVIZ, a Public Broadcasting Service station in Cleveland, and hence the material is protected, Shellenbarger said. The Ohio Channel will send a letter to the Republican Party asking that the ad be pulled, he said.
John McClelland refused to confirm or deny to the Cleveland Plain Dealer whether the ORP had clearance to use the footage. Bennett told the Akron Beacon Journal "there's always a legal argument on two sides of every issue" and "that's my position right now until someone can show me that there's something we haven't considered over here." He also said that the ad would be on TV later this fall.

It seems to me that there's a fundamental contempt for the law in Bennett's comment, and as a lawyer he should know better. Sure, there are gray areas in the law, and difficult applications of the law are the ones most likely to end up in court. But this is not a matter that has found its way into litigation, it's out here in society where most legal rules cover most situations without much controversy. When a rule plainly forbids something, as appears to be the case here, it is not true that there are legal arguments on both sides of the issue. There's following the law, and there's flouting it. Bennett's comment reminds me a lot of the statement by Scott Borgamenke, chief of staff to House Speaker Jon Husted, before I got representation in my copyright dispute, that the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee would look into whether my rights were being violated but either way the offending ad would not be pulled. Both comments convey a cynical attitude of unwillingness to comply with rules that get in the way of doing what one wants.


At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YDS, on this one, you are right.

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