Political campaigns are never pretty. In fact by the time campaigns wind down the public has had more than they care to see or hear. Much as predicted, this campaign is getting off to a very ugly start and the entire nation is getting to experience Chicago politics first hand.

The Soptic Saga

This week we were treated to the ugliest claim ever to make its way into a political ad: Obama’s PAC Priorities USA ran an ad claiming that Mitt Romney was responsible for the death of a woman. Never before has a campaign or its super PAC ever tried to finger an opponent for murder. Guess it’ll be all uphill from here, because you can’t get any lower than this. Or can they?

Joe Soptic Employer

The ad featured a former Kansas City steelworker Joe Soptic tying the death of his wife to Mitt Romney’s actions while at Bain Capital. The ad is riddled with inaccuracies and lies; but what may be the icing on the cake is that there is now evidence that the campaign and Priorities USA may have colluded on the ad, in direct violation of federal election laws.

The man featured in the ad, Joe Soptic, has appeared in Obama campaign videos before. In fact Mr. Soptic appeared in an Obama campaign ad about Bain wearing the same shirt in the ad posted by Priorities USA in May. Coincidence?

Mr. Soptic’s wife died of lung cancer in 2006, some seven years after Romney left Bain Capital. When the plant Mr. Soptic worked for, GST, was assisted by Bain it was near bankruptcy. With Bain’s assistance the company was able to stay afloat until 2001, adding nearly four years to the life of a failing company that could not survive the collapse of the U.S. steel market under overwhelming pressure from Chinese steel producers.

Stephanie Cutter, the Obama campaign’s deputy campaign manager, responded to claims of the ads dishonesty by stating that she knew nothing about “the specifics of this man’s case.”

Twenty-four hours after Ms. Cutter’s statement an audio recording emerged of a telephone conference between several persons including Ms. Cutter and Mr. Soptic where Soptic tells his wife’s story.
The Romney campaign and other fact-checkers have pushed back hard on the ad.

If you’re going to lie about knowing the facts of the case, you might as well leave out some very relevant facts, such as:

  • Soptic’s wife died five years after GST filed for bankruptcy and her husband lost his job.
  • Soptic was offered a buy-out from GST that he refused.
  • Soptic’s wife reportedly had her own health insurance after Soptic left GST.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul called the ad “disgusting” and “despicable” in an interview with Fox News. “This ad just shows the depth to which the Obama campaign and their allies will go to try to smear Mitt Romney,” she said.

Wednesday Obama campaign aides tried to make the case that the super PAC ad had nothing to do with the campaign’s work.

Soptic appeared in a pair of Obama campaign videos in May which attacked Romney over Bain Capital’s role before GST filed for bankruptcy.

“They made as much money off it as they could, and they closed it down,” Soptic said in the earlier video, wearing the same shirt he wore in the most recent ad. “It was like watching an old friend bleed to death.”

This week, Soptic reemerged in the Priorities USA ad telling how his wife got sick, and later died of cancer, after he was let go at GST Steel.

Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs stressed that the super PAC is not connected to the campaign.

“This is an ad by an entity that’s not controlled by campaign. I certainly don’t know the specifics of this man’s case,” Gibbs said on MSNBC.

Clearly the campaign knew all too well the specifics of Soptic’s case and likely coordinated the production of the second ad. Even if a case is filed with the Federal Elections Committee (FEC) it would not be adjudicated until next spring, far after the fall election.

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams attacked the honesty of the ad in a written statement Tuesday.

“President Obama’s allies continue to use discredited and dishonest attacks in a contemptible effort to conceal the administration’s deplorable economic record. After 42 months of unemployment above 8 percent, it is clear that the president and his campaign do not have a rationale for reelection,” he said.

Let’s review the facts: Romney left Bain in 1999 to work on the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, long before the GST Steel closure. Soptic’s wife died five years after GST closed. Soptic’s wife had her own health insurance. Still, with the truth dribbling out not a single person in the Obama campaign, the Obama White House, nor anyone in the Democratic Party has criticized the ad.

Politics Chicago style: Where the truth is always inconvenient and the lies flow freely.


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