Monday, October 30, 2006

As predicted, JS endorses Aaron Schock, and as predicted, the piece is full of half-truths, omits key details and deliberately misinforms readers

I knew from before he announced he was going to run against Aaron Schock (R.-92nd Ill House) that the Journal Star was going to come after Bill Spears*, both on the news pages and even more so on the editorial page. So I wasn't surprised at the smarmy little comments they tossed his way in today's endorsement for Schock.

Spears is a member of the Peoria City Council, and tends to vote with the council's "essential services first" wing. You know, the people who are in favor of the sort of things the Journal Star editorial board has always been in favor of, such as the downtown museum project, as well as most of the cockamamie taxpayer-supported economic development projects that have come down the pike.

You cannot underestimate how much the Journal Star powers-that-be hate these people and wants to see them punished for opposing their agenda.

Honestly though, while the piece was annoying and insulting, it could have been worse. They could have used the tactics they tried during the last municipal election, and try to make Spears out to be a racist. That was what they did to Mayor Ardis other 'essential services" candidates. There's still more than a week until the election, so we may yet see a few convoluted attempts to make Spears out to be a bigot.

That this piece lacks a blatant race card is the best thing I can say about it. It truly is a hatchet job.

They accuse Spears of having all sorts of expensive goals, but with being "vague on specifics" about how to pay for them. Then, they complain that he doesn't support building more prisons. If Schock mentioned specifics, I didn't see them mentioned.

This paragraph was especially misleading:

He's no fan of Ameren and would freeze electric rates until there's marketplace competition, which makes for a good sound bite but represents a real Catch-22 for the utilities and their customers who desire both affordable and reliable power. Given the God-awful deregulation bill the Legislature passed in 1997, competition may never develop for residential users. A forever freeze is not the answer.

Ummm ... excuse me, but doesn't supporting a freeze "until there's marketplace competition" mean that Spears specifically does NOT support the "forever freeze" that has the editorialists so worried? And Spears' position is misrepresented. He wants a freeze NOW to keep the rate hike from going into effect while a compromise or at least a better bill is worked out. Spears supports a specific bill, Schock does not, although he says he wants a compromise.

And the award-winning (snicker) editorial page leaves out a few important details, such as the fact that Schock has received campaign donations from the energy companies that are benefiting from the high price of fuel. The Journal Star has criticized Spears for "negative campaigning" for daring to mention this fact in his ads. Well, it's a good thing that Spears mentioned it, 'cause that's the sort of embarrassing information that Peoria's one and only newspaper of record doesn't go out of its way to print in regular news articles. Growing up in Peoria, I didn't realize until I left that most newspapers actually actually like it when they get to tell their readers information like that.

And get this:

As a former School Board member, he's knowledgeable on school finance issues and wants to reduce the reliance on property taxes.

(Easy there, stomach. This will all be over soon)

Would this be Peoria School District 150, whose budget collapsed like a house of cards during Schock's tenure as board president? This was the same budget he bragged about during his first campaign? The same budget he told conservative voters he personally went through and cut line item by line item? That same budget he later claimed was 100 percent the fault of Kay Royster? Is that what the JS means by "knowledgeable on school finance?"

And let's discuss this phrase "wants to reduce the reliance on property taxes." Really? Is that what Mr. Schock was doing when he testified to fellow legislators that virtually everyone in Peoria -- including, incorrectly, the Peoria City Council -- was in favor of to Senate Bill 2477, which would allow the Public Building Commission to authorize bonds for construction and levy property taxes on District 150's behalf. Governor Blagojevich vetoed this bill, but if the Senate overrides it, then taxpayers will be forced to pay for the district's unpopular building program -- through property taxes.

I got a kick out of the editorial's description of Spears as "the 49-year-old Democrat, Peoria city councilman, local plumber and salesman." Heh. Spears was certainly a plumber. He seemed to know what he was doing, because Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 63 chose him to be their business manager. Google is filled with examples of the JS describing him as a "plumber turned salesman." Hmmm ... I wonder if the JS ever described their "wonder boy" as a former ticket-scalper turned investor in student rental property.

The editorial says "[n]otably, he has been one of the few legislators to stay above the fray this election season, refusing to go negative." That's not what Spears says, claiming that Schock has been very negative about Spears in face-to-face encounters when there isn't a camera there collecting evidence. What's more honest, a "negative" campaign ad that relates unpleasant but accurate details to voters, or whisper and smear campaigns? The JS editorialists prefer "plausible deniability" when it comes to negative campaigning.

Also, I suggest that it's fundamentally dishonest for any newspaper editorial to praise a candidate for running an honest campaign while ignoring the fact that this same candidate has been using the same campaign tactics he not two years earlier criticized his opponent for doing. Schock complained Ricca Slone was using her franking privilege to send "information" to constituents that were little more than campaign ads. Schock has done the exact same thing this year, but managed to dishonestly imply that he was enjoying the support of politicians and public officials who most certainly were not supporting him.

And finally, there is this:

This is the most hotly contested race in central Illinois, with mind-boggling spending. Spears' record as a councilman speaks better of him than his performance in this campaign. But elections such as these are always a referendum on the incumbent. Aaron Schock has done a good job, and he is solidly endorsed.

First, Schock is solidly outspending Spears. Second, if Spears were running for re-election to the city council against an opponent with a chance to win, they world have absolutely no praise for his record as a city council member. None. Trust me on this. And what's with "elections such as these are always a referendum on the incumbent." Says who? The JS? Hey, we're not hiring an employee. Were electing a a policy maker and a leader. Decisions like this must be based on issues of character and honesty as much as whether they are "hardworking." For this job, you pick someone who's relatively independent and honest and shares your values.

* In the interest of full disclosure: Bill Spears is a personal friend of mine, and my support of his campaign extends beyond just writing favorable articles.

Cross posted to Peoria Pundit


Anonymous,  7:56 AM  

If you're such a buddy with Spears, why didn't you set him up with a campaign website?

steve schnorf 12:19 PM  

Bill, do you have any more thoughts on this?

Bill Dennis 12:39 PM  

Ummm ... the post is pretty long already. I think I shot my wad on this specific issue in the Spears/Schock race.

If you want to know why I didn't do Spears campaign site: Bill never asked, and I assumed his campaign would do something. I woulkd have had to charge him, and I have a hard time setting prices for friends.

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