Last night, The Courier Journal committed a sin of omission.
In a story about an email exchange between former independent mayoral candidate Jackie Green and Democrat Greg Fischer’s spokesman, Chris Poynter, the C-J reported that the former wanted input on Fischer’s proposed “Office of Sustainability,” and Green winds up looking more politically calculating than he really is.
In the nut of the story, the C-J wrote:
Later that day, a press release was sent out saying that Green would have “significant input”
in the creation of Fischer’s Office of Sustainability, even through Green could not say what that input would be.
On Tuesday, Poynter said, “These e-mails show the campaign doing the right thing. Jackie was asking Greg for the world, and Greg said no. This is what a politician should be doing.”
Green said Tuesday there is nothing improper in the e-mails.
“I was pushing as I have always pushed throughout this campaign,” Green said. “I pushed the issues and challenged their positions and pointed out their weaknesses. I pushed them for all the good policy Louisville could get.”
There’s a problem with this, and that problem is that what you just read is merely half the story. In this week’s edition of Jerry’s Kids, the ongoing communication between Fischer’s campaign and Green reveal that a quid pro quo agreement was discussed on Oct. 13 in an email sent by Green to his staff.
Here’s what you won’t read in the C-J, after the jump…Via Jerry’s Kids:
On Oct. 13, Fischer campaign spokesman Chris Poynter, policy director Brandon Coan and Gill Holland, a member of Fischer’s environmental committee but not on the campaign payroll, met with Green to try to convince the cyclist to drop out before Election Day, Green told LEO.
In an e-mail sent that day to his staff, Green wrote that Fischer’s team was the first to raise the proposition of him being a part of the Democratic candidate’s administration, should Fischer be elected.
“The (Fischer campaign) will draft a document to see how close they can get to our position on land use and transportation. This is a process,” Green wrote. “The (Fischer campaign) also raised the issue of our team playing a role inside gov. — should Greg get lucky. .”
Yes, that’s right: Green used an emoticon while selling his campaign down the river. And when a politician like Green suffers from a sudden bout of Nixonian amnesia — going so far as to tell WHAS11′s Joe Arnold that he can’t even remember his wife’s fucking birthday — questions of impropriety take center stage in the rational voter’s mind.
Seriously, just wait for it and watch Arnold try not to laugh:
Despite Green’s budding case of Alzheimer’s, the emails obtained by LEO clearly show him telling his campaign staff that the Fischer campaign brought up Green’s playing a role in a Fischer-led metro government first — directly conflicting with the C-J’s half-baked account in which Green approaches Fischer. Makes you wonder… Did Green simply make this up? If not, why would a politician like Fischer with so much to lose actually engage in such communication with an opponent who, at best, possesses 3 percent of the vote?
However way you slice it, the C-J story provides Fischer with more than a modicum of cover, relegating Republican Hal Heiner’s response to one paragraph at the story’s end only after they’ve given Poynter and Fischer ample space to deny charges in a story that’s inaccurately reported from the outset.
Then there’s the most serious issue: Whether or not the Fischer and Green campaigns have violated Kentucky campaign finance law by engaging in this kind of deal-making. Per KRS 121.055:
Candidates prohibited from making expenditure, loan, promise, agreement or contract as to action when elected, in consideration for vote. No candidate for nomination or election to any state, county, city or district office shall expend, pay, promise, loan or become liable in any way for money or other thing of value, either directly or indirectly, to any person in consideration of the vote or financial or moral support of that person. No such candidate shall promise, agree or make a contract with any person to vote for or support any particular individual, thing or measure, in consideration for the vote or the financial or moral support of that person in any election, primary or nominating convention, and no person shall require that any candidate make such a promise, agreement or contract.
If campaigns are a window into which one can view how a candidate might govern, then this obviously raises serious concerns. (UPDATE: It appears the Republican Party of Kentucky thinks so, too, which is why they’ve asked Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s office to investigate the matter. Read about it at The Ville Voice.)
Regarding the potential illegality of his campaign’s dealings with Green, Fischer called his Republican opponent a liar and dismissed the gravity of the charges, telling LEO Weekly, “We’re not violating KRS-whatever. I think Hal’s really grasping for straws here.” With this kind of response to this sort of issue — the punishment, per KRS 121.990, is up to five years in prison — it’s not rocket surgery to understand why Heiner would jump on this and milk it for all its electoral value.
Indeed, if Fischer wins this race, the prospect of a new mayor embroiled in a criminal investigation over whether or not he committed a class D felony while running for that office is, one would think, a seriously retarded, seriously newsworthy prospect, in which case the city of Louisville should perpetually wash its hands and groan, “this is the best we can do, folks,” while pining over the loss of its Great Cheerleader.
That we’re forced to write this editorial is the disturbing part, if only because the so-called paper-of-record has accidentally perpetuated a dangerous half-truth with onerous implications so close to Election Day. However, if redemption/credibility is something the Courier Journal’s editorial board is interested in, then as penance they should implore their misinformed readers to stay home on November 2.