GOP Video: Dirty Politics or Politics as Usual?

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"Everybody is looking to catch somebody saying something that can be blown up into a huge sound bite that can derail a campaign. That's the end goal of this. It sounds like it wasn't necessarily successful." ~Susan Demas, Inside Michigan Politics

 

Lansing, Mich. (WILX) Democrats are calling an undercover video made by a Republican staffer and intern "dirty politics" and "Nixonian," after the two secretly recorded what was to be a private fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer.

"It's troubling," said Cathy Bacile Cunningham, press secretary for Mark Schauer for Michigan. "It's troublesome because we've seen more deceptive tactics from the governor's campaign. This is a pattern of deception that's taking dishonesty to a new level."

It's the third time the Schauer campaign has complained about the GOP's tactics.

In March, a Republican staffer posed as a CNN reporter at an event. Then, in June, a Snyder intern tried to volunteer on the Schauer campaign. The intern was fired from the campaign.

This time, the staffer and intern entered a campaign fundraiser wearing a camera disguised as a pair of glasses. They mingled with attendees -- even Lisa Brown, candidate for lieutenant governor -- but didn't record anything controversial.

They were discovered when Schauer's party found a memory card on the floor of another event and linked it to the Republican party.

It's deceptive, but is it unethical?

Susan Demas, who publishes Inside Michigan Politics, says it's tracking -- which is far from a new practice -- but more high-tech.

"I think they've taken it to a technological level that's just fascinating," she said. "Calling it a dirty trick, especially with a botched operation, I think that would be going too far. But I think this is because this is the third incident the Snyder campaign has had, it kind of raises some questions."

Particularly, Demas wonders why Snyder's campaign would engage in such activity.

"I think what the Snyder campaign has to be concerned about is he is perceived as the overwhelming favorite," she said. "He's the incumbent, he has a huge monetary advantage, he's been leading in most of these polls. To have to resort to these kind of amateur tactics I think undermines people's confidence in how big of a lead he actually has."

Darren Littell, communications director for the Michigan Republican Party, says the GOP acts independently from its candidates, tracking races across the state.

Schauer's campaign says it does not employ trackers.

"We're out there making sure we know what's going on and what's being said to the public," said Littell. "Republicans track Democrats, Democrats track Republicans, so I really don't think this is anything out of the normal campaign cycle."

Littell says the issue has been blown out of proportion, saying Democrats have acted similarly.

He showed News 10 a pair of videos that show Democrat Kevin Hrit telling volunteers to "get these Republicans when they're saying crazy stuff."

"We've had Democrats following us around with their iPhones in their pockets with just the little video recorder sticking out or had their phones turned over so you can't see they're recording," Littell said. "So I think at the end of the day, everything's pretty much a very similar approach."

Demas says these days, everybody is looking to catch a candidate saying something that can derail the campaign -- and now there are more ways to do it. That should have an effect on future campaigns.

Said Demas: "I think this definitely means campaigns need to be on their toes."


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