1. Opinion

Editorial: Democrats should stop false attack against David Jolly

Rep. David Jolly has never met Donald Trump, despite what a Democratic TV ad, top, against him shows. Charlie Crist, on the other hand, has met with Trump in public several times.
Rep. David Jolly has never met Donald Trump, despite what a Democratic TV ad, top, against him shows. Charlie Crist, on the other hand, has met with Trump in public several times.
Published Oct. 21, 2016

There are unfair, nasty attack ads every campaign season that have little relationship to the truth. But the Democrats are setting a new low this year with a false, reprehensible ad using altered photos to make it appear Donald Trump and Republican Rep. David Jolly are allies and frequently together. Nothing could be further from the truth, and Democrat Charlie Crist should demand that his new political party take those dishonest ads off the air.

Jolly, R-Belleair Bluffs, is the only Tampa Bay Republican House member with the courage and independence to refuse to endorse Trump. Yet the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has aired television ads using doctored photos to make it appear Jolly and Trump are pals and often appear together at various events. The ad claims Jolly would be a Trump ally if he defeats Crist to win re-election in the redrawn Pinellas House district and the billionaire becomes president. In fact, Jolly has been openly critical of Trump and his foreign policy views.

In fact, it is Crist who has previously appeared with Trump, who contributed to Crist's 2010 U.S. Senate campaign and held fundraisers for him when Crist was a Republican. Crist is pictured in public with Trump as far back as 2005 as he was running for governor. Now Crist should do the right thing and call on the DCCC to take its false attack against Jolly off the air.

While this ad is the worst of the season, it is not the only unfair attack ad on television. Here are two other outrageous examples:

• Former federal prosecutor Andrew Warren has taken an aggressive tack in his campaign to unseat Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, bending the facts and misrepresenting Ober in two high-profile sex cases.

In the most egregious charge, Warren alleges that Ober went easy on several students at Plant High School who were investigated in 2003 after they were accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student. Warren said the case reflected a "good old boy system'' in which accused sex offenders with "well-connected attorneys receive slaps on the wrist." A campaign mailer using similar language, labeled "Rapists Set Free," was paid for by the Florida Democratic Party on Warren's behalf. But the defendants were not charged with sexual assault or other sex-related crimes, much less prosecuted for or convicted of them. After the victim changed her story, law enforcement officials feared subjecting her to cross-examination during trial. The four young men pleaded no contest to felony battery charges as part of a plea agreement that the victim's family supported. For a state attorney, words, facts and details matter.

• State Rep. Dana Young made a mockery of the truth in her state Senate race by misrepresenting her vote in support of fracking. Now she is blaming her opponent, Bob Buesing, for a government-made scandal that was engineered by Young's own Republican Party.

Young has accused Buesing of defending "a gross waste of taxpayer money" associated with the construction of a $48 million courthouse for the state appeals court in Tallahassee — a project so lavish it was dubbed the "Taj Mahal." In ads produced by a GOP committee backing Young, Buesing is attacked for profiting from "government waste and abuse."

That's absurd. This project was conceived by then-Tampa state Sen. Victor Crist, a Republican, who slipped funds for the Taj Mahal into the 2007 budget. As costs ballooned, state auditors concluded the court had spent too much, in violation of state law, and refused to authorize payments. Buesing, a Tampa attorney, represented a contractor on the project. He didn't create the scandal; he represented a client caught up in the mess. That was sticking up for a private business, and the "gross waste of taxpayer money" was by the government. The state eventually settled the case under a deal approved by Republican Gov. Rick Scott and a GOP-led legislative budget panel.