In the final weeks before Virginia's Nov. 5 election, the state Republican Party has released campaign mailers across the commonwealth that use overt falsehoods and unauthorized sources within its claims against Democrats challenging GOP incumbents.
At least two of the races involved, the House of Delegates' 32nd and 33rd districts, fall within the closely-watched swing county of Loudoun.
Two other contests with dubious campaign materials from the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), the 93rd and 94th districts, are in southeastern Virginia near Hampton Roads.
In what appears to be a tightening race between Republican Dave LaRock and Democrat Mary Daniel in the 33rd District, focused in western Loudoun, the RPV material sourced the popular Democrat-siding blog NotLarrySabato.com as saying “Mary Daniel is the handpicked candidate of the Obama Democrats …”
The author and operator of NotLarrySabato, Ben Tribbett, denies ever writing those words
, and the Republican Party didn't dispute it mis-sourced the blog. According to Tribbett, the RPV offered his blog a disjointed seemingly, insincere apology.
In an email to Tribbett, an RPV official wrote: “We have done a disservice to the Not Larry Sabato blog. We asserted that he was the one that pointed out that Mary Daniel was the choice of the Obama Democratic machine. In reality, Mary Daniel is the choice of the Obama Democratic machine. But the Not Larry Sabato blog was not the bearer of this terrible news for the Democratic candidate ...”
Wrote Tribbett in response, “It's not a joke or funny to mail something out to tens of thousands of people in a district and cite this blog to something we never said. Shame on the RPV for sinking to this level.”
While the mailer was paid for by the RPV, it was authorized by LaRock.
In the 32nd District -- currently represented by Republican Del. Tag Greason of Ashburn -- the RPV mailer quoted FactCheck.org without the nonpartisan watchdog group's permission.
Dismissing Democratic challenger Liz Miller's attacks against Greason on legislation relating to women's health care, the campaign piece states, “Liz Miller should be ashamed. FactCheck.org says these false attacks go 'too far' and are 'beyond the facts,'” reads the RPV mailer authorized by Greason.
But FactCheck.org is making clear
it hasn't weighed in on any House of Delegates races in Virginia. The organization has gone so far as to post an entry on its website discrediting some of the Republican Party of Virginia ads. While the FactCheck.org statement does not name the race between Greason and Miller, the ads it calls into question -- from the Hampton Roads races -- are similar.
“We almost never write about state legislative elections, and these races are no exception,” FactCheck wrote.
Jordan Spencer, a spokesman for the Greason campaign, explained his camp's position on the mailers: “Factcheck.org and other independent news sources have ruled that identical claims in other races are 'beyond the facts,' 'mostly false' and 'go too far'," Spencer said. "Liz Miller and Democrats all across Virginia are making the exact same claims using the exact same language so it's no stretch to conclude that their claims are” misleading."
“These are the facts: Elizabeth Miller is lying about Tag. He has never voted to ban abortions or ban birth control,” Spencer said. “Anything to the contrary is simply a lie. Tag has consistently fought for the issues women care about …”
Greason, though, has made controversial votes in favor of “personhood” legislation that defines life as beginning at conception and backing legislation that requires women to undergo ultrasounds before having an abortion.
Speaking of the mailers, Miller said they're “just another example of Tag Greason trying to deceive the voters of Loudoun County … The men and women of Loudoun deserve a delegate who will trust them to make their own choices and not lie to them."
J. Garren Shipley, the communications director for the Republican Party of Virginia, would not answer whether he believes the mailers are within ethical boundaries, given they use outside groups without their authorization or incorrectly attribute sources.
Instead, Shipley echoed Spencer's comments.
“Democrats all across Virginia, from Terry McAuliffe to House candidates in every corner of the state, have been flat out lying about the Republican record on issues women care about,” Shipley said. “Multiple independent fact-checking agencies have ruled claims by Democrats on issues like abortion and birth control as 'false,' 'pants on fire' and 'beyond the facts.' When other Democrats use these exact same claims using the exact same language, it's no stretch to reach the same conclusion - they're lying too."
A Democratic Party of Virginia spokeswoman called the Republican Party's mailers desperate.
"Virginia Republicans are making one last ditch effort to cover up the divisive legislation they've proposed and voted for over their careers in office, while throwing out bold face lies about our candidates," the spokeswoman, Ashley Bauman, said.