Chamber Endorsees Weigh in on Attack Mailer

Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 3:01 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

The three candidates endorsed by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce's PAC: Shanna Draheim, Mark Meadows, and Nathan Triplett.

Last night, I wrote to the three East Lansing City Council candidates endorsed by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce’s PAC—Shanna Draheim, Mark Meadows, and Nathan Triplett—to ask for their take on the Chamber’s mailer attacking candidate Erik Altmann. By 9 a.m. today, Meadows had sent a short statement, which was reproduced in our first report on the story, along with statements from others who responded.

We now have longer statements from Meadows and also a statement from Draheim. We have not yet gotten a response from the third endorsee, incumbent Triplett.

Meadow’s response, in full, is as follows in italics:

On Tuesday, October 27th, one week before our City Council election, something happened in East Lansing that to the best of my memory has never happened before; at least never happened in a City Council election.

A powerful and well-funded organization intervened in the race and distributed a negative ad which distorted statements made by one of the candidates, Erik Altmann. You should be aware that a “public figure” has little or no protection against lies, distortion or even defamatory remarks because of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions. As a result, Mr. Altmann cannot really do anything about this cowardly attack on him, likely funded by developers and landlords and which corrupts facts to argue that Mr. Altmann’s vison for the future of East Lansing is the opposite of what it actually is. The attack came way too late in the campaign for Mr. Altmann to be able to use his resources to combat whatever effect the attack might have.

You might ask why would this risky, reckless, amateurish and ill-advised approach be taken by the Chamber?

Before I answer that question I want to reiterate something that I have repeated over and over to people during this campaign—I have not aligned myself with any other candidates and have not endorsed anyone but myself for election to the East Lansing City Council. Notwithstanding the other Chamber ads you may have received over the last couple of days that make it look like I am part of Team Triplett, Draheim and Meadows—or recent endorsements by other elected officials that seem to align me with Team Altmann, Ross and Meadows, my only team is Team East Lansing and I am only looking for one of your three votes.

I was proud to have received the Chamber’s endorsement in this race. I know many of its members and I enjoy working with them. I am not going to criticize the Chamber’s membership, but I am completely opposed to the negative ad that the Chamber has mailed. In the negative ad, the Chamber decries the use of “dark money”! The ad itself is an example of such “dark money” and the use of corporate funds in campaigns. The Chamber ad also violates the basic tenet of the endorsement process; namely that in order to make sure that candidates are completely forthright in their answers, the answers are confidential. The ad cites to one of Mr. Altmann’s answers as a basis for one of its claims. While the ad was intended to damage Mr. Altmann’s chances to be elected, what it really does is damage the Chamber’s credibility. I cannot imagine why any candidate would ever participate in their endorsement process again. You can even conclude that the Chamber wanted to punish Mr. Altmann because he tells the truth. In addition, the ad is also extremely disingenuous because the Chamber knows that one of its endorsed candidates shares Mr. Altmann’s (and that of two current City Council Members’) opposition to the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for the Taco Bell redevelopment project so prominently featured in the negative ad launched against Mr. Altmann. That endorsed candidate is me.

Now for the answer to the question: Why would the Chamber proceed in this negative manner? The answer is simple, the majority on the current City Council has been very willing to provide significant financial incentives to developers and has indicated a willingness to loosen some of the restrictions that apply to rental housing. The Chamber’s constituency wants this to continue. If Mr. Altmann is elected, the Council is not likely to continue to award TIF with the same generosity that has been present lately.

The next question should be: Why would the Chamber be worried? The answer is that Mr. Altmann asks tough questions and more importantly, he has been a prodigious campaigner. The race has been almost continuously polled and the polls over the last 30 days have been remarkably consistent: Mr. Altmann may win a seat.

If Mr. Altmann is elected, the consideration of TIF could be significantly different and what appears to be a cozy relationship between the Council and landlords and developers will likely end. Developers and landlords are constituents of the Chamber and the Chamber should be advocating for their interests, but not by distorting the record of Mr. Altmann. [End statement]

Shanna Draheim response, in full, is as follows in italics:

My fellow candidates and I have enjoyed months of spirited campaigning, highlighted by two high-level debates and thousands of thoughtful conversations with voters throughout East Lansing. Individuals and organizations acting independently of the six candidates have taken the tone of the campaign in a different direction in recent days—in letters-to-the-editor, social media posts, and personal letters and other literature mailed to our homes.

As a candidate, and hopefully a member of City Council, I welcome robust debate on the issues facing our community. I expect disagreement and criticism. That's part of being a public servant. Our community is at its best when we treat each other with respect and generosity and keep our disagreements focused on differences of opinion on important policy matters for our city. I hope the small number of voices in our community who have taken the tone of the debate in a different direction will remember and honor that. [End statement.]

Draheim response was received at noon today, at which time she asked that we also attach an “editorial statement” written by her saying that we had asked for a quick response and she had answered "in a reasonable timeframe."

If we hear from Triplett, we will post his statement here.

 

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