A harsh new TV ad slams Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, for supporting a convicted sex offender. It’s described by the Republicans as a form of payback for all the sex offender-related ads that the House Democrats have been using against Republicans this year and in years past.
The ad begins with footage of a Chicago television anchorman saying "Federal prosecutors now accusing a former state Representative of possessing child pornography."
It then cuts to footage of convicted former state Rep. Keith Farnham, with an announcer saying "Unspeakable abuse from a Springfield Democrat." Footage of Rep. Bradley appears on the screen: "But as Madigan's top lieutenant in Democrat leadership, John Bradley stood by as the predator committed heinous crimes on his state computer."
"The sex assault victim was an infant," the TV anchorman is heard saying. "Yet Bradley stroked a check to the predator's campaign just to strengthen Madigan's power. Cowardice so despicable you have to wonder, how does John Bradley sleep at night?"
Bradley did contribute $1,000 to Farnham, but that was three years before Farnham’s arrest. Nobody had a clue what was going on with Farnham back then. Farnham is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for trafficking in child pornography. He's also been sued by two minors who say their pornographic images were found on Farnham's Illinois House computer.
The Democrats have been airing TV and radio ads and sending mailers blasting Republicans on this same basic issue. Republican Jerry Long, who is running against appointed Rep. Andy Skoog, D-LaSalle, was hit for renting one of his houses to a convicted sex offender. Republican Lindsay Parkhurst, who is challenging Rep. Kate Cloonen, D-Kankakee, was blasted for working to "keep a predator [of a 5-year old child] out of jail." Parkhurst is a defense attorney.
Several other GOP candidates have been whacked for opposing House Speaker Michael Madigan's failed budget proposal, although not in those words, of course. The Madigan proposal included funding for various programs related to sex offenders, so they're being hit with that. Bradley's own opponent Dave Severin got the treatment, as did others.
And the GOP hit is spreading to other districts.
"Yingling's Dirty Money," blares the headline on a new Republican mailer, which features an image of a little girl with her head in her hands just behind a photo of Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake. Yingling’s GOP opponent was hit with a Democratic sex offender mailer earlier.
"Sam Yingling has taken over $1,000,000 in campaign contributions from the same political groups who bankrolled a politician that pleaded guilty to horrific child pornography crimes," the mailer claims, using very similar language to a recent House Democratic robocall that linked state Rep. Carol Sente's current Republican opponent to Dan Proft's Liberty Principles PAC.
"The candidate was sued by victims saying they were repeatedly 'raped and sexually assaulted' to produce child pornography," the Republican mailer claims. "Sam Yingling won't give back the political donations."
The mailer then excerpts a news report: "Depictions of sadistic and sexual abuse of children as young as 6 months old."
The House Democrats are a pretty predictable bunch. If something works, they use it over and over again anywhere and everywhere they can until it stops working. This sort of slam helped keep Sente in office two years ago when the Democrats used a variation of the sexual predator "issue" against her GOP challenger Leslie Munger.
Munger, who went on to be appointed state comptroller, was whacked for saying she opposed unfunded state mandates, which the Democrats twisted to mean she was opposed to school mandates that help shield children from predators.
Linking an opponent to child sexual predators is about the lowest thing anybody can do in politics. But it's a type of tactic as old as negative campaigning itself.
Almost everybody has heard the legend about Lyndon Baines Johnson wanting to spread a rumor that his opponent was engaging in, um, marital relations with a member of the porcine persuasion. When told he couldn't do that because it wasn't true, Johnson is said to have replied that he knew the claim was false, he just wanted to make his opponent deny it.
Two years ago, the Munger campaign fell for the old LBJ trick and stirred up a media storm by flatly denying that she wanted to protect child predators. Munger lost that race during an otherwise favorable Republican year.
If the “issue” actually turns out to be an effective counterattack for the Republicans, the House Democrats may finally stop using it. One can only hope.
In the meantime, Democrats can hardly complain.
• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.