In the words of Hollywood mogul David Geffen, "Everybody in politics liesŠ" But when some politicians tell lies that damage a person's character in the eyes of voters and ultimately lead to his defeat, those are damnable lies that need to be corrected.
Last fall, about a month before the November election, the Associated Press ran a story that claimed Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, had failed to disclose stock options he had earned while serving as a director of Commonwealth Biotechnologies Inc. (CBI). The story suggested Allen might have violated ethics rules because the company, which is based in Richmond, had conducted business with the state when Allen was governor. Allen had served on CBI's board between his departure as governor and his election to the Senate.
Allen reported the stock options in 2000, but he did not file subsequent reports because the price of CBI stock plunged, making the options worth less than he paid for them, denying him a profit.
Last October, the Associated Press ran a story that said Allen had failed to report his CBI stock options and hinted at possible wrongdoing by Allen when he was governor because the company had done business with the state. This was all that Allen's challenger, now Sen. James Webb, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headed by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer needed. They prepared an attack ad, alleging that Allen's stock options were worth $1.1 million and were not worthless, as he had claimed. The ad also made the connection between CBI and the state, charging Allen tried to "steer government contracts to a company that paid him in stock options." AP did not report anything about Allen trying to steer government contracts to the state, but Jim Webb "approved this message" anyway.
An analysis of the negative ad by AP political writer Bob Lewis revealed its inaccuracies. One must conclude that, since the information was available to Webb and Schumer, the two deliberately used factual inaccuracies in the negative ad. But why let truth get in the way of an effective election strategy? The damage was done and since the ad fit nicely into the Democrats' theme of "the culture of corruption" in the Republican majority, the desired result was achieved. Allen lost the election by 9,000 votes.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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