Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 28, 2010

Analysis: Innuendo in GOP's Benson ad

By the Center for Michigan
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---- — • Michigan Republican Party ad

• Jocelyn Benson

QUESTIONABLE STATEMENTS

"Jocelyn Benson, the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, made an oath of nonpartisanship and challenged others to do the same."

Jocelyn Benson is running for Secretary of State against Republican Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson. In a column in the Grand Rapids Press June 29, 2010, she described her pledge as "an oath to the citizens of this state that I will operate the office in a neutral and nonpartisan fashion. To fulfill that oath, if elected I will not co-chair any campaigns or endorse any candidates running in elections where I will serve as the final certifier of results."

She did not promise to run a nonpartisan campaign or to not endorse candidates before she holds office. The candidates who win election this November will be certified by the current Secretary of State, Terri Lynn Land.

"In 2004 she led the Democratic Party election protection program that produced a manual, instructing supporters to lie about voter intimidation. She is endorsed by both George Soros' Secretary of State Project whose stated goal is to elect activist, progressive secretaries of state and Howard Dean's democracy for America, a group designed to infiltrate the Democratic Party with progressives."

According to the Detroit Free Press, Benson was a field director for the Democratic Election Protection program in 2004. Benson's website says she "helped with the Democratic Party's national voter protection effort, recruiting, selecting and training Voter Protection coordinators in 21 states with the goal of ensuring that the 2004 election was conducted with integrity in accordance with the law."

That program came in response to the 2004 presidential election in which George W. Bush narrowly defeated Al Gore in Florida to win the presidency. Many Democrats believe that Gore should have won Florida and that partisan behavior by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris resulted in Bush's victory.

The election protection program produced election manuals, including one in Colorado that was provided to the Michigan Truth Squad by the Michigan Republicans. One of the areas of focus is voter intimidation. Democrats in many states, including Michigan, have accused Republicans for years of intimidation tactics, especially in areas with a high percentage of minority population, aimed at reducing turnout among traditionally Democratic constituencies. Republicans have vigorously denied those charges.

The manual suggests that Democrats "launch preemptive strikes" before such "voter intimidation" has occurred, such as issuing press releases reviewing past Republican activity and helping minority leadership discuss the issue in the media. It does not recommend that anyone lie about anything as the ad asserts. Beyond that, Benson's spokeswoman, Darci McConnell, told the Truth Squad in June that Benson did not write the manual or the line about "pre-emptive strikes," and there is no evidence suggesting she did.

Benson is in fact endorsed by the Secretary of State Project.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

The Republicans' ad implies at the outset that Benson has made a pledge not to engage in partisan activities during the campaign, when in fact her pledge relates to an oath she will take if elected.

The statement that Benson was involved in producing a manual urging people to lie about voter intimidation is flat-out false, both because the manual didn't urge lying, and she didn't write it. The rest of the ad makes a weak claim of guilt by association, implying but failing to produce evidence of connections between Benson and improper activities.

Foul or no foul: Foul.

Foul for false claim about urging others to lie, and attacks by innuendo.

The Center for Michigan is a centerist think-and-do tank founded by former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan Regent Phil Power.