Dirty Politics or Just Politics?

Eric Kleefeld is reporting at TPM that the gubernatorial race in Kentucky has been marred by phony phone calls designed to smear Democrat candidate, Steve Beshear (HT: Instapundit):

Someone in Kentucky has resorted to an almost certainly illegal campaign tactic in today’s election for governor. A new robocall has gone out purporting to be from Fairness.org — the Web site of the Fairness Campaign, an actual gay rights organization in Kentucky — speaking with pride about the strong support of “the homosexual lobby” for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Steve Beshear.

“Beshear is receiving major support from out-of-state gay activists and has publicly committed to same-gender relationships,” the man on the call says.

The Fairness Campaign has denied any part in the calls, and is urging people who have received the calls to report it to the authorities.

You can listen to the robocall at the link. Kleefeld also provided the following (presumably accurate) transcription of the call:

For the first time in 20 years, the homosexual lobby proudly endorses a Kentucky candidate for governor: Steve Beshear. Beshear is receiving major support from out-of-state gay activists and has publicly committed to same-gender relationships, employment of more homosexuals in state government including teachers, and support for homosexual adoption of children.

If you believe these rights are fair please vote for Steve Beshear for governor. Visit Fairness.org.

So, my question is, is this really dirty politics?

First of all, the call doesn’t really “purport[] to be from Fairness.org” although it certainly does seem to be implied. It simply advises people to go to the Fairness.org website. Nor, it seems, is it illegal for the call to omit the “paid for by” language we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in national campaigns.

Secondly, the Fairness Campaign (found at Fairness.org) does in fact endorse Beshear.

And third, although this is a bit more iffy, Beshear is apparently in favor of the policies attributed to him in the phone call regarding gay marriage, etc., if the sponsors of this fundraiser are any indication:

It appears that Beshear hosted a fundraiser in Louisville on September 19th. Chief on the list of contributors is Senator Ernesto Scorsone, the only openly gay member of the Kentucky General Assembly. Scorsone is the chief legislative proponent of gay marriage in the General Assembly. Listed below his name, inexplicably for the Beshear campaign in a state as conservative as Kentucky, are the names of three gay couples, some claiming to be “married” to each other.

The event was hosted at the Highlands residence of Ken Herndon, the Jefferson County Judge-Executive. Herndon is a long time gay-rights activist. Here’s what the Louisville Fairness Campaign said about Herndon in their endorsement of him for county judge.

Ken Herndon has been a tireless advocate for the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] community and a tireless campaigner. He has earned CFAIR’s support in the past and we enthusiastically give it again. . . . He is one of the founding members of the Fairness Campaign.


Many of the sponsors for the fundraiser were contributors and fundraisers for the 2004 effort to defeat the marriage amendment to the Kentucky constitution. All of which begs the question, what exactly is Steve Beshear’s agenda as it relates to this fundraiser? Is he secretly planning to attempt to repeal the marriage amendment? We already know his plan to veto any bill that restricts public university benefits to married couples.

Like his agenda in the Kentucky Central Life Insurance scandal, Beshear doesn’t want average Kentuckians to know about his and his liberal friends’ plans to undermine the sanctity of marriage in Kentucky.

Regarding the last bit about Beshear’s stance on gay marriage, etc., I have no idea how reliable the article is, nor if the fact that the gay community through him a fundraiser that necessarily means that they all share the same agenda. It should also be noted that Beshear does not take any of these position on his campaign website. In fact, although Beshear provides commendably detailed policies and plans in his “Issues” section, there is nothing at all about gay rights or anything even remotely resembling the policies attributed to him in the robocall. But that just begs the question: why this fundraiser and why the Fairness Campaign endorsement?

Since Beshear does not explicitly state any position, we are left with one of two possibilities:

(1) Beshear does not support “same-gender relationships, employment of more homosexuals in state government including teachers, and support for homosexual adoption of children”, in which case the endorsement by the Fairness Campaign is a bit strange, and the robocall is deliberately misleading, or

(2) Beshear does support those policies, and thus picked up the Fairness Campaign’s endorsement, but he has not disclosed his stance. In this case, then, the robocall is not misleading at all with respect to Beshear’s candidacy, although it seems to be deliberately vague as to who was behind the call.

Given the above, is it really dirty politics to call voters and tell them who is endorsing a candidate and what that candidate’s positions are on given issues? Have we gotten to the point where injecting truth into politics is not fighting fair?

As an aside, I don’t wish to condone the robocalls or the message being delivered. While I am on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, I don’t ascribe to the homophobic motives behind these robocalls. One of the reasons I almost never discuss the topic is because I can’t decide who I’m more offended by: the pro-SSM forces who automatically label me a bigot, or the anti-SSM zealots come across sounding like, well, bigots … just like the phone calls.

But if indeed Beshear does support gay marriage, and does not do so openly, why is it dirty politics to call attention to that detail? Don’t the voters of Kentucky deserve to be informed about a candidates positions? The robocalls may go about framing that information in a rude and homophobic way, but Beshear could have framed the issue himself if he had been up front about the topic. Why should he be allowed to hide his agenda?

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