In reporting that the re-election campaign of Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) had agreed -- in return for "millions of dollars" from the Republican National Committee -- to air "much tougher" ads against DeWine's opponent, Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), including "a brand-new commercial" that "assail[s] Brown on taxes," The Columbus Dispatch made no mention of the fact that the ad's attack on Brown for not paying "an outstanding tax bill for 12 years" is "false," according to a state official.
An article in the October 19 edition of The Columbus Dispatch reported that, in return for "millions of dollars" from the Republican National Committee (RNC), the re-election campaign of Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) had agreed to air "much tougher" ads against DeWine's opponent, Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), including "a brand-new commercial" that "assail[s] Brown on taxes." But the Dispatch did not report that the ad's attack on Brown for not paying "an outstanding tax bill for 12 years" is "false," according to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services -- the agency that succeeded the employment bureau that issued Brown a tax lien in 1993. In contrast, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Brown paid the outstanding tax bill within four months of receiving the lien. According to The Plain Dealer, state records show Brown paid the bill and the lien was released in 1994, but because of a paperwork error, county records showed the lien outstanding until 2005. The Toledo Blade reported that before the candidates' October 18 debate, a DeWine campaign spokesman said that "the campaign will revise the ad"; however, the spokesman said the ad would still assert that Brown "failed to pay a delinquent tax bill." The Plain Dealer noted that the RNC had produced a similar ad attacking Brown for what the ad falsely claims is a 13-year overdue tax bill but said it "had no plans" to change it.*
As The Plain Dealer reported, ads run in Ohio by DeWine's campaign and the RNC attacked Brown for failing to pay until 2005 a tax lien issued by the state in 1993. The Plain Dealer reported that Jon Allen, "spokesman of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services" said the "claims [in the DeWine ad] are false." The lien was issued in Lorain County for unpaid unemployment taxes on Brown's 1992 congressional campaign organization. Despite the fact that the state received payment in 1994, the Brown campaign did not file notice of that payment in Lorain County until 2005. The Plain Dealer noted that "Republicans looking for avenues of attack seized on the dates of the lien and the 2005 release," and both DeWine's campaign and the RNC began airing ads attacking Brown for failing to pay an "outstanding tax bill for 12 years," according to DeWine's ad, and failing to "pay his unemployment taxes for 13 years," according to the RNC ad. After Brown's campaign complained about the ads, providing documents authenticated by the state of Ohio establishing that Brown paid the bill in 1994, DeWine's campaign said the ad would be changed as soon as possible but "still would reflect the fact that Brown 'failed to pay a delinquent tax bill.' " The RNC said it would not change its ad.
As the Dayton Daily News noted on October 11, two earlier DeWine ads have been criticized, one for including a doctored image of the World Trade Center following the September 11 attacks, and one for showing the image of an active-duty U.S. service member in uniform, in apparent violation of Defense Department regulations. Following the criticism, DeWine's campaign removed the World Trade Center image from the first ad. The campaign defended the use of the image featuring the soldier in the other ad, however, and did not remove it.
From the October 19 edition of The Columbus Dispatch:
National Republicans promised to pour millions of dollars into the faltering campaign of Sen. Mike DeWine only after he agreed to air much-tougher TV commercials against Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown. The new Republican strategy, which includes a less prominent role for longtime DeWine adviser Mike Dawson, was unveiled yesterday with a brand-new commercial in which three older women assail Brown on taxes and his voting record, with one woman concluding, "Sherrod Brown, I just don't trust you."
Republican sources in Washington say that even though DeWine is trailing in the polls, GOP leaders think he still can win his race by sharpening the differences between himself and Brown, a six-term congressman from Avon.
The GOP sources, who spoke with The Dispatch on condition of anonymity, said they repeatedly urged DeWine to adopt a tougher approach to throw Brown on the defensive. But they said Dawson, who has played a major supporting role in the Republican dominance of Ohio during the past decade, has opposed a more aggressive advertising campaign.
"A lot of us believe that Sherrod Brown has some fundamental flaws (in his voting record)," said one prominent Republican in Washington. "Instead of going after those flaws and standing up in a forceful way, this has been a campaign curled in a ball and sucking its thumb."
The same source said that Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman, who met with DeWine last week in Columbus, and other senior party officials told the senator that he needed to "listen to your own people who are harder and stop listening to people who are softer. If you don't do that, the money is going to go away."
From the October 19 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
The Republican Party last night refused to cancel commercials that claim Sherrod Brown was a longtime tax scofflaw - even though the state of Ohio says the ad's claim is untrue.
Brown, the Democrat running against incumbent Mike DeWine, paid the tax bill years ago, soon after receiving a tax lien, according to newly released records from the Brown campaign and authenticated by the state.
But the Republican National Committee, supporting DeWine's reelection bid, is running commercials saying that Brown "didn't pay his unemployment taxes for 13 years."
DeWine ran his own commercial all day Wednesday with a DeWine family friend saying that Brown didn't pay "an outstanding tax bill for 12 years."
Hours after Brown campaign lawyers complained, DeWine spokesman Brian Seitchik said last night that the campaign would change its ad "as soon as possible," but that it still would reflect the fact that Brown "failed to pay a delinquent tax bill."
The RNC, however, said last night that it had no plans to change its ad.
The tax bill in question, for $1,776, was for unemployment taxes on the Brown campaign organization for the 1992 tax year. After the taxes weren't paid on time, the state filed a lien in Lorain County, where the campaign was based, on Dec. 2, 1993. The Brown campaign then paid the bill within four months, according to the state.
The lien should have been released then, and the state in fact issued a lien release on April 20, 1994. But because of a mixup, no one actually filed the necessary papers with the Lorain County recorder until 2005.
Republicans looking for avenues of attack seized on the dates of the lien and the 2005 release. The RNC bought $700,000 worth of television time in Ohio, starting on Tuesday, for its ad. The DeWine campaign on Wednesday spent an undisclosed sum for its own ad on the theme.
Brown's campaign demanded throughout the afternoon and evening Wednesday that the RNC and DeWine cancel their commercials.
Jon Allen, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the successor agency to the employment bureau, said the claims suggesting Brown didn't pay the tax bill for 12 or 13 years are false. His department researched the matter last year, when the Brown campaign asked about the lien.
The Brown campaign's own actions added to the confusion, although it was cleared up by Wednesday afternoon. When taxes are unpaid, the state issues a lien, and when it receives full payment, it sends a lien release. But it was up to the Brown campaign, not the state, to file the release with the county recorder. That didn't happen.
Brown aides surmise the mixup occurred because the Brown for Congress Committee changed its name to Friends of Sherrod Brown and got a new address after Brown's successful 1992 campaign. Correspondence may have been missent or lost. The campaign had the cash to pay the bill and had no reason to shirk it, Brown's former treasurer, now a judge, said.
The unreleased lien apparently was caught by a title searcher in 2005 when Brown was buying a new house, aides say. Friends of Sherrod Brown contacted the state and got the matter cleared up, Allen said.
From the October 19 edition of the Toledo Blade: :
On the eve of a Toledo debate with his Democratic challenger, Republican U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine was forced yesterday to correct another attack ad for accuracy.
Mr. DeWine (R., Cedarville) and U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D., Avon) will meet at 7 tonight at the Stranahan Theater, in an event sponsored by The Blade and WTVG-TV, Channel 13. WTVG will broadcast it live locally, and C-SPAN will carry it nationwide on tape delay.
State officials said yesterday that Mr. Brown's congressional campaign settled a delinquent unemployment tax bill in 1994, four months after it was filed. The revelation contradicted an ad Mr. DeWine launched hours earlier, in which an elderly woman tells Mr. Brown "I just don't trust you" because "you didn't pay your outstanding tax bill for 12 years."
The Republican National Committee aired a similar spot this week, which accused Mr. Brown of not paying unemployment taxes for 13 years.
Democrats accused Mr. DeWine and the RNC of lying and threatened lawsuits to boot the ad off television.
"The DeWine campaign and the Republican Party must immediately pull down yet another advertisement that deceived voters with an attack we proved to be false," Brown spokesman Joanna Kuebler said. "Senator DeWine should apologize for deceiving Ohioans in a last-ditch attempt to save his career."
Yesterday, the senator [DeWine] said he did not know whether he would recall the tax bill ad. "We'll have to find out what the facts are," he said. Later, a spokesman admitted the campaign will revise the ad to reflect "the facts."
An RNC spokesman, Aaron McLear, said the committee would continue to air its ad. He said in a statement that Mr. Brown's "fondness for tax increases and inability to pay his taxes on time provide further proof that he is wrong for Ohio." :