Ohio Collective Bargaining Fight Takes New Turn; Recut Television Ad Makes SB5 Opponent Look Like A Supporter

Last week, Marlene Quinn was starring in a television ad explaining how Cincinnati firefighters saved her great-granddaughter, and urging Ohioans to vote against Issue 2 so firefighters could continue to negotiate for proper staffing levels.

Yesterday, the 78-year-old Quinn was startled to learn that she also was starring in a new ad by the Republican group Building a Better Ohio, her image and words swiped from the Issue 2 opposition ad and spliced to sound like she is a supporter of the anti-collective-bargaining law.

“I think it’s dishonest and downright deceitful that they would use footage of me to try to play tricks and fool voters,” Quinn said in a statement released by We Are Ohio, the coalition of Democrats and union supporters pushing for a no vote on Issue 2, which would repeal Senate Bill 5.

“It’s insulting to the brave firefighters that saved the lives of my grandson and my great-granddaughter Zoey. I’m outraged. They did not ask my permission. I feel violated.”

In the ad titled “Zoey,” Quinn speaks at length about firefighters saving Zoey but not being allowed to negotiate for manpower levels under Issue 2. She criticizes politicians who “don’t care about the middle class.” She says, “Fewer firefighters can mean the difference between life or death.”

Building a Better Ohio took some of those same phrases and crafted a new ad, splicing her statements with a female narrator who says failing to pass Issue 2 will force firefighter layoffs, which threatens safety because communities have to pay for “excessive benefits” of public workers. The ad ends with Quinn’s statement about “life or death.”

“That’s the kind of stuff you just don’t do,” Jack Reall, president of the Columbus firefighters union, said of the ad. “This is a group that wants us to believe our politicians are going to do the right thing when it comes to safety, staffing, training. Then you turn around and make a decision like this.”

We Are Ohio said 27 television stations have at least temporarily pulled the ad, including four in Columbus: WSYX (Channel 6), WTTE-TV (Channel 28), WCMH-TV (Channel 4), and WBNS-TV (Channel 10). We Are Ohio sent stations a “cease and desist” letter yesterday.

The letter, written by Columbus attorney Donald McTigue, told station managers that they bear responsibility for the content of issue ads that they broadcast, and failing to stop the airing of false advertising “can be the cause for the loss of a station’s license.”

We Are Ohio supporters also criticized their opponents’ previous ad, which featured Fairfield County Republican Chairman Kyle Farmer as a teacher talking about how Issue 2 would benefit education. Farmer teaches at the Fairfield Career Center in Carroll, but union supporters questioned why Republicans could not find teachers who are not political operatives to star in such an ad.

Swiping footage from an opponent’s ad is not common, but it’s not unprecedented. In 2006, for example, Republican gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell grabbed a frame out of primary opponent Jim Petro’s ad in which an actress said “hypocrite.” Both ads featured the same woman appearing to criticize both candidates.

Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, defended his group’s ad.

“Opponents of Issue 2 chose to use a personal story to make a political argument, but the same story makes an even more-powerful case for supporting the reasonable reforms we’re asking of our government employees,” he said. “Without Issue 2, our communities will continue to lay off police officers and firefighters because they can’t afford to pay them.”

Mauk said Issue 2 opponents “don’t like our efforts to set straight their multimillion-dollar campaign of dishonesty and emotional scare tactics.”

Reall said layoffs are not about collective bargaining: “We’re laying off public safety workers because we’ve cut local government funds, and we’ve decreased taxes on the wealthy by cutting the estate tax.”

The current two-year state budget, enacted July 1, cuts schools by $780 million and local governments by $633?million. The estate-tax cut starts in 2013.

Gov. John Kasich, the main pitchman for Building a Better Ohio, said this morning that he doesn’t “run the campaign,” but “what they’re doing is fine.”

“The ads and literature out there supporting Issue 2’s been based on facts,” Kasich told reporters following a speech to the Independent Insurance Agents of Ohio meeting. “We want people to pay their fair share and we want our cities to survive. Mayor (Mike) Bell, the mayor of Toledo, has argued that if he can’t control his costs he’l l have to lay off safety forces, which we don’t want to do.

“Controlling your costs allow you to get it right, so I think we’ve been pretty factual about it,” Kasich continued. “The problem with the campaign – they’ve been emotional and we’ve been factual. And in campaigns, emotion usually wins. That’s kind of where we are.”

From The Columbus Dispatch.

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