Monday, September 20, 2010

Democrats Seek Fallin Link To Askins Attack Commercials; Claim DC Pollster Ed Goeas Involved

A trio of Democrat attorneys is seeking evidence that Washington pollster and consultant Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group has violated the law by orchestrating commercial attacks on his client's opponents, The McCarville Report Online has been told.

Goeas told TMRO he had nothing to do with the commercials.

Alex Weintz, communications director for Republican Mary Fallin's campaign, told KTOK's Reid Mullins this morning, "I know that's not true (that Goeas was involved)...our campaign had nothing to do with these ads...we focus on our positive message.... we would have said, 'here's Mary's positive message.'" (Hear the entire interview:

The trio apparently has been working for about 10 days as they try to connect Goeas to the attacks, which surfaced in Oklahoma with commercial attacks on Jari Askins paid for by a third-party group, the Republican Governors Association.

Goeas, an Oklahoma native, is the primary consultant to Fallin's campaign. Goeas also is the primary consultant to the RGA's chairman, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, and counts the RGA itself as a client. Less than a month ago, Barbour was the featured draw at a Fallin fundraiser in Tulsa.

Said Goeas: "The RGA's Independent Expenditure team in Oklahoma -- which placed an ad highlighting Jari Askins on her liberal record on illegal immigration -- has their own set of vendors and consultants. I am not one of them, and I am prohibited by law from coordinating with them, approving their ads, or even offering them my advice. Quite frankly, if I were allowed to do any of that, I would have told them the best way to help Mary Fallin's campaign is to focus on her record of conservative leadership. Mary has stood up against the Obama Administration's failed policies -- on health care, immigration, and taxes, just to name a few areas -- and she'll continue to do so as governor while offering her positive vision for job creation and fiscal discipline. That's what her campaign message has focused on, and that's what I'd tell anyone looking to help Mary to focus their campaign commercials on."

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The attacks on Askins began about two weeks ago with a commercial claiming that her record shows she is a liberal. The controversy has continued, and the RGA last Friday aired a second commercial critical of Askins. On Saturday, the RGA took the attack on Askins to the national level with an ad on the Drudge Report seeking to tie her to President Obama and congressional liberals.

The first Drudge ad showed it was paid for by the "RGA Georgia 2010 PAC." The current ad shows it to be paid for by the Republican Governors Association.

The Fallin campaign, asked about the commercial, quickly disclaimed any involvement, citing the law. Weintz told TMRO, "Mary and her campaign did not have anything to do with the content of the ad nor were we asked to approve it nor can we legally do either."

It apparently will be the contention of the Democrats that Goeas, in his role as Fallin's primary consultant and with the clout he carries as Barbour's consultant and a consultant to the RGA, orchestrated the attacks on Askins as a surrogate for the Fallin campaign.

It apparently will be their contention that other clients of Goeas have benefited from similar attacks on opponents in other states.

And they reportedly plan to make the point that the lack of a connection between a candidate and third party groups allows one side of a campaign to attack the other side while avoiding criticism for going negative; it is their claim that a connection exists in this case and thus, the Fallin campaign is doing indirectly what it can't, under the law, do directly.

It could not immediately be determined what the group plans to do with its allegations other than make them public; candidates and third party groups have wide latitude legally in what can be said about candidates.

A Democrat source with details said just going public with the charge against Goeas may be as far as the Democrats will take it.

Some political insiders have been baffled by the attacks on Askins. They question why a front-runner like Fallin (polls have shown Fallin with a double-digit lead) would have anything to do with attacks on her opponent when the perception is that she's comfortably ahead in the race. They also note that the first attack commercial on Askins came before Fallin's own positive commercials began to air; that's simply bad tactics, one said. Another said the RGA runs the risk of its anti-Askins campaign backfiring on Fallin: "Not many like the idea of outsiders sticking their noses into our business," he said.

See related story below 

A GOP insider said the commercials likely are driving Askins' "negatives" higher than they have been. He notes that Fallin's favorable-unfavorable percentage has been about 4-to-1, while Askins' has hovered in the 2-to-1 or slightly more range and he expects that will drop as a result of the anti-Askins commercials. However, there have been no post-primary polls in the race that have been made public; any data contained in the earlier polls is far out-dated.

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