Ohio House 20th: Campbell (D) Fights Back Against Smear Ads by McGregor (R)
Beverly Campbell (D-Gahanna) fought back hard this week against the deluge of misleading attack ads being run on behalf of incumbent Jim McGregor (R-Gahanna). She held a press conference on Wednesday with five voters who have filed complaints with the Ohio Elections Commission about literature and a TV ad attacking Campbell.
The heart of the matter is that Campbell was in a near-fatal multi-car accident while she lived and had a solo law practice in Philadelphia. She required 30 surgeries to repair head, face, knee, spinal and internal injuries. As a result of the disruption from the accident and extended medical care, her representation of her clients suffered and some cases were mishandled. That resulted in disciplinary action against her in the supreme courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, charged as in most states with regulating attorney conduct. However, and this is the critical point, Campbell was suspended from practicing only this one time, and it was due to the accident and resulting negligence -- not for dishonesty or self-dealing.
(Another element to the attacks, claiming that Campbell has engaged in unlicensed practice of law in Ohio, is totally friviolous. She briefly worked as a staff attorney for judges without appearing in court or giving legal advice, which is done routinely without a local law license. The Republicans wrote a letter to the Supreme Court complaining about it, but their ads unfairly treat it like it's an ongoing investigation when actually no official steps have or will be taken.)
On the basis of Campbell's horrible accident and difficult recovery, the Republican party has barraged the 24th House District with advertising that calls her dishonest, unethical, and disqualified from serving in the legislature. For example, the literature states that Campbell "has had her law license suspended in 2 states for unethical conduct," when it was in fact only one incident and involved only unfortunate negligence, not lying or stealing. The literature also states that Campbell was "suspended in Pennsylvania for misappropriating a client’s trust funds," implying that she deliberately stole money, when in fact the court there referred to negligent misappropriation. Campbell is charged with “Dishonesty" for "charg[ing] her client for filing legal papers that she never prepared or filed,” which again was a billing error during her medical disability. In all these instances the Republicans are exploiting a personal tragedy to portray the victim as an evil perpetrator.
Campbell doesn't have the resources to mount a massive TV response, so she is going to the Ohio Elections Commission and stating her case. Also, she's trying hard to get the mainstream media to pay some attention to how unfair these attacks are. In a letter to a Columbus Dispatch reporter today, Campbell asks for some "Ad Watch" coverage of the ads, which as she says "mak[e] it appear that living through and overcoming a devastating tragedy is actually a dishonest and thieving act."
UPDATE: The Ohio Elections Commission has set the complaints for a hearing before a full panel on Monday, November 6th.
2nd UPDATE: The excellent blog Blue Bexley has a post up about this.