As if elections in Arizona weren't exciting enough, we can always count on the ambitious to cross the line and go negative. And for our part, all we can do is sit back and try to avoid being caught in the crossfire of muckflinging.
The following signs were spotted around Tucson this week:
Just on a purely graphical note, these signs certainly do the right job in attacking Horne. Red triggers emotions of fear and anger. The text is large enough to read from any distance or lighting. And, really, who would vote for a guy who could make the bouncing Wal-mart happy face mascot cry?
The signs link to StopTom.com, a website that is saturated with righteous indignation against Tom Horne. The banner of the site accuses Horne of being a "RINO" – a Republican in name only. "Tom Horne is no conservative," screams the header in stark blacks and greys, "he is a confessed con artist."
The website than proceeds on a long litany of accusations against Tom Horne, that supposedly demonstrate that Horne isn't a true conservative — including the fact that Horne has received several speeding tickets. Because we all know that conservatives always abide by speeding laws. Reports are still pending as to whether or not Tom Horne also kicks puppies and steals candy from babies.
But the most inflammatory charge made by StopTom.com is the one also referred to in the campaign sign pictured above: that Tom Horne supposedly supports tax-payer funded abortions. And, it is true that while in the State Legislature, Horne voted "No" on HB 2708, which explicitly banned use of public funds to pay for abortions, in all or in part. The bill also required underage women to receive parental consent, and failed in the House by a vote of 28-28.
Interestingly, StopTom.com includes footer information revealing that it is paid for the "Thomas for AG Committee". Horne is running as a traditional candidate, but Andrew Thomas is participating in Arizona's Clean Elections Commission, which begs the question as to whether or not a potentially slanderous (or at least a clearly distasteful) negative campaign can be conducted on Clean Elections money.
Turns out it can. I called up the Clean Elections office today and found out that the Commission allows candidates to conduct negative campaigning with its funds. "We don't regulate speech [in campaign materials]," said a representative of the Clean Elections office. Furthermore, a financial disclosure (which the sign pictured above lacks) is not required on small campaign materials, including campaign signs (regardless of the dimensions of the sign). So, as long as the expense is documented in the candidate's financial reports, Clean Elections candidates are free to pay for attack ads out of their campaign funds – while hiding the fact that they're paying for the ad on the materials themselves. Talk about loopholes.
Either way, while I'm no fan of Tom Horne (aka, the guy who spear-headed Arizona's recent ban on ethnic studies programs), I'm really put off by the shameful muckflinging demonstrated by the sign above.
Tom Horne may (or may not) support tax-payer funded abortions, but Andrew Thomas clearly supports tax-payer funded character assasination.
Note: I am awaiting a comment from the Horne campaign on this story. If I hear back, I will update this article accordingly.