Putting Political Opponents in the Pokey

–Richard E. Vatz

As you read the initial outcome of the first political trial regarding robocalls, you may have thought you were in one of those totalitarian countries that calls itself the “Democratic Republic” of something or other. Or you may have thought you were in the Middle East.

According to The Baltimore Sun‘s description, Paul Schurick has been found by a Baltimore City jury “guilty of fraud and related charges…for his role in an Election Day 2010 robocall — a decision hailed by government watchdog groups…” I cannot imagine anything more impressive that the opinions of “government watchdog groups.”

I have met, but do not know, Paul Schurick, and the little I have heard about him does not comport with the “nice guy” descriptions I have heard from testimony in the case.

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But there is no way to describe this outrageous outcome, except as Democrats seeking juridical retribution for Shurick’s, granted, heavy-handed and irresponsible, political incorrectness in supporting Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s re-election.

Stipulated: the robocalls were outrageously unfair and deceptive political campaigning. They claimed that the election of Gov. Martin O’Malley was a fait accompli. The goal was to discourage African-Americans from voting, despite claims to the contrary of “counterintuitive” strategies of encouraging Republicans to vote.

This is dirty campaigning, but it should not be legally actionable.

Julius Henson has a long history of dirty campaigning — for Democrats.

He has, according to City Paper, promiscuously distributed materials wherein it is illegal to do so; he has lied, claiming then-Rep. Ehrlich is a nazi; and he manufactured the falsity that Ellen Sauerbrey’s was opposed to civil rights and other mendacities. He has aided with his contemptible tactics Democrats Joan Pratt, Elijah Cummings (using robocalls as well), Albert Wynn and others, many others. [If Ehrlich is a “nazi,” won’t that suppress Republican votes? If inaccurate polling — remember the “Du” Burns-Kurt Schmoke push polls? — is very one-sided, won’t money dry up and voting by conservatives be discouraged?]

It is not just he, but these points show that the same person committing comparable acts in Maryland for Democrats and Republicans risks prosecution only when he attacks Democrats.

Despicable campaign ads and persuasion in today’s media climate are almost always counter-productive.

They take care of themselves – this robocall trick did not work, remember.

The Baltimore Sun article on the verdict was comprehensive and informative, but it quoted only liberal pundits. The accompanying article supporting the verdict was by the newspaper’s most liberal columnist.

Maryland may be Democratic and very leftist, but we do not have an illicit system of criminal justice.

Not yet.

Prof. Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

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