Editor’s note: One sentence of the original article has been corrected.
Tonight (for the second night in a row) I received a phone call surveying me on the District 2 election. Last night the questions were straightforward, asking who I would be voting for, in an automated call paid for by Neighbors for Aimee Allison — well and good.
But tonight was another matter. A young man, declining to say who was paying for the call or what organization he was working for, wanted to read me some statements. But first he wanted to know who I was voting for in the District 2 election and who I had supported for mayor. Okay by me, so I told him.
Then he posed “statements” to me asking if they were true, would it change my vote? He wanted to ascertain, for instance, did I know that Patricia Kernighan has “associates that have been interviewed by the FBI for corruption.”
He wanted to know how I felt about the “fact” that Patricia Kernighan did not lobby for a walking officer for the Grand Lake district.
And here’s the one that clinched it for me: he repeated the line from the mailing I received for Aimee today:
Murder in Oakland has doubled in just the past year. Since [Pat] took office just last year, there have been 5,644 serious and violent crimes in District 2—including murders, rapes, and assaults.
How do I feel about that?! Horrified, but do I think Pat has been out committing these crimes, that she could have stopped them, or that Aimee can stop them? Puhllease!
Do I believe Pat is guilty by association or that she didn’t fight for our walking officer? Lucky for me, I know better. I know she fought for and got that officer, and I believe her to be honest even when we disagree on issues. But for others, ugly doubts have been planted and that’s the point.
Turns out there’s a term for this kind of call: “push polling.” Look it up in Wikipedia:
A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. Push polls are generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning.… More negative are attacks on another candidate by using polls. These attacks often contain information with little or no basis in fact.
Wikipedia further notes:
Perhaps the most famous alleged use of push polls is in the 2000 United States Republican Party primaries, when it was alleged that George W. Bush’s campaign used push polling to torpedo the campaign of Senator John McCain. Voters in South Carolina reportedly were asked “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?”, an allegation that had no substance, but planted the idea of undisclosed allegations in the minds of thousands of primary voters.
Such push polls have been condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants as “a clear violation of the AAPC’s Code of Ethics and a degradation of the political process.”
So now we have a Green supporter using Rovian smear tactics. The possible funder (though I don’t know since it’s a secret) is independently wealthy San Franciscan Steven Phillips, who just spent over $11,000 to send out the mailer denouncing Pat for the rise in crime over the year or so since she’s been in office. I know Halloween is near, but even if she were the devil herself, I doubt Pat could have arranged all that criminal activity in the little time she’s been in office.
I’ve been involved with local politics for a long time and I don’t mind a little spin. I know the dance, and I can play the game. I don’t even hate the game like lots of folks do.
But as one reporter told me about a politician I used to work for, “if he’s going to play like he’s Mr. Clean, he’d better act like it.” Anybody who’s running against an incumbent might want to sling a little dirt; but if you sling too much, you risk getting it all over yourself.
After denouncing Pat for having the support of the Chamber of Commerce’s OakPAC, it’s time for Aimee to join with Pat and send her big “independent” donors, particularly those with a carpetbag full of GOP-like tricks, packing.
[Editor’s notes: After this story was published, Pamela Drake later reported in a comment below:
I have been informed by Aimee and her campaign that she disavows the anti-Kernighan poll. She also says that it does not represent her values and that she could not afford to run such an operation in any case.
This article has been cited by the East Bay Express’s Will Harper in “Wealthy Lefties Open Wallets for Green Party candidate Aimee Allison.”]