Swaim & Wiskus

I have received several email messages, asking me just what was in the GOP mailing sent to voters in Representative Kurt Swaim’s Bloomfield-area.  I do not have a scanner in my office, but here is what the sheets in the mailer said.  (Radio Iowa story on GOP candidate switching to Independent, apologizing for mailing.)

One is headlined "SPECIAL BULLETIN:  Child moester released early into our community."  It then lists the details on this particular molester.  "Name:  Burdett, Donald L.; County:  Davis; Address:  Bloomfield, Iowa; Sex:  Male; Race:  White.  There is a head shot of Burdett on the middle left and in bold letters at the bottom of the page, in a box, is this verbage:  "ELIGIBLE FOR EARLY RELEASE BY KURT SWAIM."

Next, there’s the inside of the flier.  Across the bottom is this:  "VOTE NO ON KURT SWAIM" and then below that is "IT’S TOO RISKY TO SEND HIM BACK TO DES MOINES"  At the top on the right hand side is this:  "In 2001, Donald Burdett was arrested for Lascivious Acts with a Child" and blow that the following:  "He plead guilty and was sentenced to 200 days in jail.  He served 4 days.  How did he get such a sweet deal?  His Public Defender, Kurt Swaim, was paid $936.30 to get him back on the street.  Even worse, Kurt Swaim voted to make criminals like Burdett eligible for early release.  If we can’t rust Kurt Swaim to keep child molesters behind bars, how can we trust him with our vote?"

Free on-line records show a Donald L. Burdett of Bloomfield filed for bankruptcy in the fall of 2004.  To obtain court records on-line related to the 2001 case cited in the GOP mailer, you have to be a 25-dollar-per-month subscriber to those more-detailed court records.

Research studies offer conflicting data about whether "negative" ads work.  Some studies indicate one reason negative ads work is because they are more-easily remembered.  Some studies indicate negative ads depress turn-out while others suggest negative ads increase turn-out among those so-called "base" voters. The studies often cite the Willie Horton case.  Lee Atwater, the GOP strategiest who helped "41" into the White House (that would be the FIRST President Bush), is generally credited with "introducing" Willie Horton into that race.  Numerous focus groups found Dukakis supporters flipped and became Bush backers when presented with information about the Horton case.  You may recall the ad that featured the mug shot of Horton, a black man who’d been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a 17-year-old gas station attendant in 1974.  Horton was furloughed from his Massachusetts prison in October of 1986 for a weekend furlough, but he never returned.  In April of 1987, Horton raped a Maryland woman after assaulting her fiance.  Horton’s spending time in a Maryland prison now on two life terms — plus 85 years.

Negative campaigning wasn’t invented by modern-day political consultants, by the way.  Read a little bit about some of our country’s early presidential races.  Look at some of the cartoons that were part of the campaigns and you’ll probably conclude that Abraham Lincoln’s race featured  "mud" just like our modern day races.


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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.