By John Fredericks
Sometimes the math just doesn’t add up.
Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman Corey Stewart’s on-air defense of illegal campaign attack ads allegedly tying back to his campaign in the GOP lieutenant governor’s race and his explanation of Prince William County tax hikes during his tenure were fraught with gaping holes, leaving me and much of my listening audience with more questions than answers.
Stewart — during an appearance on my morning radio show on May 3 — unequivocally denied any involvement in the illegal attack ads and spun his property tax hikes.
My approach is always to give our guests a fair shake, and to let them explain their positions in an unfettered environment. Some will undoubtedly take issue.
But there is a fine line between explanation and evasion.
Concerning illegal negative ads and taxes, did Corey Stewart mislead our entire listening audience? Or did he just slickly sidestep some of the more compelling facts in this case?
While everyone is entitled an opinion, no one is entitled to his or her own set of facts.
ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN ADS
At the Virginia Republican Party’s annual Advance meeting in Virginia Beach in December, 2012, Stewart promised a clean campaign.
Stewart said on our radio show he has no knowledge of the direct mail and video attack ads leveled against rivals Del. Scott Lingamfelter and businessman Pete Snyder, and denied any involvement whatsoever.
But the proverbial dots don’t connect to his denial. They do, however, start to connect back the Prince William County Chairman.
Jim Riley, an accomplished and veteran Virginia based campaign finance lawyer who has worked on numerous presidential campaigns in the last two decades, traced the illegal attack ads directly to Lee Bond after an exhaustive investigation. His full report was published this week on the website VirginiaVirtucon.com.
When questioned about the report, Stewart attempted to discredit its author — a typical tactic of the Left first made popular during the ’92 Clinton for President campaign by James Carville – by claiming Riley is a Lingamfelter sympathizer.
“That’s nonsense,” Riley fired back. “I come from the Jack Kemp – Steve Forbes wing of the Republican Party that focuses on a positive message of economic freedom and growth. When I saw these despicable illegal attack ads, I was determined to get to the truth regardless of where it led me – including Scott Lingamfelter,” Riley emphasized.
“This is not about any candidate – it’s about fair play on all sides and holding accountable those who engaged in illegal campaign activity.”
Who is Lee Bond and what does he have to do with the Corey Stewart for Lt. Governor campaign?
First, Vince Harris, a former political consultant for Stewart, employed Bond on his staff. That’s the initial connection between the two men.
From January, 2012 to March, 2013, Bond shows up as an employee of Prince William County in their television and video department. With no municipal or county government experience, who hired Bond and how did he get the job there?
Stewart says it’s pure coincidence and abnegated any knowledge or connection to the hire – even though he’s chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
But this defies the test of logic.
Does anyone really think that Bond just sent in a blind resume – or applied online and got hired without knowledge or abetment from Stewart – who knew Bond during his days with Harris – working on the Stewart for County Supervisor campaigns?
The candidate for the GOP lieutenant governor nomination – who has over $350,000 in campaign cash on hand – said that Bond currently holds no position in his campaign.
So did Bond go rogue and do these illegal attacks himself, with his own money, and with no coordination from Stewart or any other candidate?
Is it reasonable to assume that someone would spend an enormous amount of money running attack ads if they have no personal connection and nothing to gain?
According to Riley, an e-mail was sent linking to one of the anonymous attack videos that went to an obscure email address for “one of our contributors that almost no one has — and only Stewart’s campaign has otherwise used,” Riley claims.
“That is what originally put us on the scent of Corey’s campaign,” the campaign finance lawyer said. “It also tells us that this wasn’t just some rogue person who supports Corey, but someone who has access to his campaign email list.
“There’s no wiggling out of that part — which we’ve been saving — should there be a denial from Stewart,” Riley stated.
When questioned about the e-mail, Stewart said he had no idea what Riley was talking about. “We generally protect our list, but I don’t know who has this super secret e-mail or who sent it out. It’s pretty flimsy,” Stewart contended. “It’s all [Scott] Lingamfelter.”
When contacted, Lingamfelter was circumspect. “It’s specious,” the Prince William County Republican said. “It’s babble.”
Lingamfelter, who was the target of the first salvo of anonymous negative political ads in this campaign, said the evidence against Stewart regarding the attack ads was mounting.
“Corey and the circle of influence around him has some explaining to do – and they are falling short,” the House of Delegates member stated. “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up that gets people in trouble. In this case, we may have crossed the Rubicon.”
“The biggest casualty in post-modern politics today is trust.”
According to Riley, the e-mail address is undeniably from the Stewart database.
“If the Stewart campaign had nothing to do with the production or dissemination of the illegal attack videos like he says, then they have a security breach of their database. It’s one or the other,” one of Riley’s writers on his website concluded.
Perhaps it’s the Weiner-I-was-hacked-into-defense. Either way, there is more doubt cast on Stewart’s position.
Shaun Kenney, political editor of BearingDrift.com, says he has no doubt Stewart is the mastermind and sugar daddy behind the attack ads.
“Based on the facts at hand, all the fingers point directly to the Corey Stewart campaign,” Kenney said.
“I believe these allegations to be true. It’s very difficult to see how the trail of bread crumbs point to anyone else and Corey Stewart has not made a compelling argument to the contrary — nor has his campaign staff presented any evidence to dispute my conclusions.”
When asked about Stewart’s comments that his remarks are politically motivated due to an allegiance to Snyder — Kenney was pointed. “I am not committed to any candidate,” Kenney responded. “We call it like we see it – and that is what any legitimate news source worth its salt does.”
STEWART’S FUZZY TAX MATH
When is a tax increase not a tax increase? When Corey Stewart says it’s not.
Stewart, who voted to raise the Prince William County property tax millage rate as recently as 2011, when questioned, said it was a moot point because many county homeowners’ total property taxes were lower year over year.
But this is arithmetic that would get a failing middle school grade. To celebrate a lower tax bite in spite of an increase in the mill rate due to one’s home value being decimated is hardly a homeowner’s bonanza. The tax rates went up.
“He’s got the biggest tax raising record in Prince William County,” Lingamfelter said of Stewart. “This is well documented, and he’s largely gotten a pass on it – until now.”
This is the rub with the overall Virginia Tea Party Patriots and Middle Resolution endorsement of Corey Stewart, handed out on April 29.
I am not a Tea Party member, and as an unabashed supporter of the statewide transportation compromise of 2013, I have no quarrel with raising taxes when I believe they are necessary to move forward in a divided government landscape.
My issue is telling the truth to our listening audience. Stewart voted to raise taxes. Why not just admit it and defend the vote? Stewart’s alternative argument of two plus two equals one is intellectually assaulting and somewhat maddening.
Which brings us to the Tea Party endorsement. Doesn’t it stand for “Taxed Enough Already?”
The level of hypocrisy that swirls around both the Tea Party’s eyebrow raising endorsement of Stewart and the chairman’s anemic defense of the illegal attack ads allegedly emanating from his camp is not exactly what the Republican Party of Virginia was hoping for going into its nationally watched May 18 nominating convention in Richmond.
Lingamfelter, who says he’s raised $200,000 in the last two weeks, recalled this riveting line from Stewart: “He said when this campaign started – ‘everybody knows how much I have coveted this office’ – these are definitive words.”
The future of the Republican Party in Virginia is at stake. With less than two weeks to their convention, dirty tricks and deception is a prescription for electoral disaster.
Questionable ethics and illegal campaign behavior like this could take down the entire GOP ticket, and change the national political narrative going into the 2014 mid-term elections.
My listening audience today was the big loser for getting mumbo-jumbo gibberish from Stewart in prime time.
State and national Republicans could be the next losers if these shenanigans are left unabated.
John Fredericks is syndicated morning drive radio talk show host in Baltimore, Washington D.C & Virginia and can be heard M-F 6a.m.-9 a.m. on WTNT–AM 730 & 102.9FM in Balt-D.C., WLEE AM 990 in Richmond, WHKT AM 1650 in Tidewater and WBRG AM 1050 & 104.5 FM in Lynchburg – Roanoke – Charlottesville or streaming online at www.thejohnfredericksshow.com.