Thies: Attack Reveals Hypocrisy in D.C. Council Election

An effective political attack should be meaningful to voters and based on truth.

Also, an attack should never backfire, especially if the attacker risks being labeled a hypocrite.

The label could stick.

Such is the case of Elissa Silverman, a candidate in the April 23 special election for at-large D.C. Council.

Last week, Silverman launched an attack on one of her opponents, Patrick Mara. Silverman criticized a contribution received by Mara’s campaign. The money came from a PAC that, among other things, opposes voting rights for District residents.

Silverman demanded that Mara return the money. Mara's campaign replied with a statement saying the contribution had already been returned.

Campaign donors are fair game. Candidates are often criticized for the money they receive. Sometimes, as was the case with Mara, candidates have no idea if the person or organization who gave the money has a checkered past.

Not so in the case of Silverman, who accepted a campaign contribution from Sinclair Skinner.

Skinner's checkered past is well known to Silverman. She was once a reporter.

Here is what Silverman said about Sinclair Skinner in an email to me:

“You know better than anyone, Chuck, that I was the first reporter to write about Sinclair, about the homophobic nature of Grahamzilla.”

“Grahamzilla” is a reference to racist, homophobic cartoons that appeared in a community newspaper published and distributed by Skinner.

Maybe now the name Sinclair Skinner is beginning to ring a bell?

Perhaps you are familiar with the D.C. Council inquiry commonly known as the “Trout Report.” The report concluded that Skinner’s dealings with the District government and possible false testimony should be investigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Here is what Silverman said about Skinner and the Trout Report in an email to me:

“I have reviewed the Trout report. Sinclair should not have gotten that contract and likely inflated the cost. That is bad.”

I asked Silverman if she plans to return Skinner’s contribution.

Silverman said she is keeping Skinner’s money.

Let’s review.

Silverman demanded that an opponent return a campaign contribution because the money came from a PAC with an objectionable policy platform.

But Silverman insists on keeping a contribution from a person associated with racist, homophobic propaganda. That same person attracted the attention of investigators probing the abuse of District government funds.

Got it?

Earlier this year, one of Silverman’s opponents called her a hypocrite. The Washington Post and the City Paper found the accusation credible enough to paraphrase.

Unless Silverman has a change in heart and decides to return Skinner’s money, that “hypocrite” label is likely to stick.

Chuck Thies is a political, communications and advocacy consultant. From 1998 to 2010 his portfolio included District of Columbia politics. Chuck has worked on national projects and internationally in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, China and Mexico. If you are daring, follow him on Twitter: @ChuckThies.

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