by Max Brantley
Sen. Gilbert Baker has called a news conference at 3 p.m. today in Conway to respond to what he claims is "an illegal political attack" launched by his opponents. I have a call in to him .
Democratic opponent Joe White hasn't started any new TV advertising of late to spur this "urgent" announcement. Apparently Baker is upset about a Joe White mailer. An e-mail Baker has sent to supporters urges them to call Joe White HQ about this "illegal" mail piece and its "negativity." The e-mail doesn't detail the alleged illegalities.
Here's the deal, I believe. It's a mailer, legal and within the bounds of political discourse, about Baker's well-reported and smelly involvement in insider deals at UCA. Baker's complaint apparently is that the mailer does not include the line that it was paid for by the Joe White campaign. It does include the campaign's mailing address. A spokesman for White said the "paid for" line was not required in mailers. In any case, no subterfuge was intended. "We've been using that address for months," he said. "It's no secret. More than 1,800 people have sent checks to it."
Baker hopes to obscure the essence of the mailer with a diversionary tactic.
The state Ethics Commission says the wording about paid political ads is required only in paid advertising in radio, TV or newspaper mediums. It is not required on candidate mailings, which amount to free speech by the candidate, said Rita Looney, counsel for the Ethics Commission. She answered a question about the law in general, not the White mailer specifically.
If Baker is claiming it was "illegal" for White to mail this circular without the "paid for" language, the only law that seems to have been disregarded is the one about slander and libel. Erroneously accusing another of an illegal act is pretty well a per se definition.
Click on image to enlarge.