"What we are affectionately calling the 'Lies, Half-Truths and Innuendo Campaign' is underway."
That's Robert Blaha on U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, the three-term congressman for Colorado's 5th Congressional District. Blaha is running a primary challenge to unseat the incumbent Republican, and the race has turned nasty, with campaign ads from both sides targeting weaknesses imagined and otherwise.
By June 26, the voters will have spoken, but before then, Blaha wants to address the issue of what he says are false Lamborn claims.
To this end, the Blaha for Congress campaign has hired the law firm Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons to request that numerous media outlets stop running a Lamborn campaign ad. In a letter supplied by the Blaha campaign, attorney Eric Hall writes that the ad titled "Question" "misrepresents Mr. Blaha's record."
"For the sake of [Federal Communications Commission] licensing requirements and the public interest," the letter reads, "your station should immediately cease airing this advertisement."
When asked about the ad, Lamborn campaign's spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen responds: "I am disappointed the Indy is giving any credibility to Mr. Blaha's latest claims."
The ad contains claims that, while being arguably factual, are taken out of context. For instance, there's the insinuation that Blaha was responsible for three tax liens at the now-defunct Nebraska company TournamentGold/Attendeez.
In actuality, Blaha sat on the board of directors after investing some start-up money in TournamentGold/Attendeez, says co-founder Paul Gornell. "And that is the beginning and end of his involvement with our company," Gornell adds.
The letter was sent May 25 to the market's four top TV stations: KRDO, KVOR, KKTV and KXRM. According to Hall, none have answered. Representatives of these stations would not discuss the letter on-the-record with the Indy.
Hall argues that it is the media outlets' responsibility to pull the ad, citing the FCC's mandate that outlets "protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising." Failure to do so can lead to a station's loss of licensure.
However, as one media executive argues, the stations have a legal obligation to run the Lamborn ad.
According to Section 315 of FCC regulations, if a media outlet accepts an ad from one candidate, it must accept ads from all other qualified candidates in that race. Further, the regulation states that the station "shall have no power of censorship over the material."
"I have been expecting, but I haven't received, a legal rebuttal along those lines," says Hall.
Blaha has not pressed the issue with the FCC, says Hall: "That is a huge undertaking. It's not as simple as filling out a form."
Perhaps after the primary, Blaha could continue legal action, Hall suggests, but it wouldn't be cheap. "It costs money to move through that process."
In his letter Hall also requests that the outlets fact-check the campaign ads, and report on the results — a reasonable request, he says.
That might be any candidate's only real hope.
"It's the media and individual's job," argues Blaha, "to clarify for the public."
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