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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2005

Clean-campaign panel backs Ford on polling

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Theodore Mastroianni, third from left, a campaign consultant for Mayor Jack Ford, and
Don Burnard, second from right, a member of Carty Finkbeiner s campaign, have a lively
discussion in front of some of the members of the Clean Campaign Committee. Theodore Mastroianni, third from left, a campaign consultant for Mayor Jack Ford, and Don Burnard, second from right, a member of Carty Finkbeiner s campaign, have a lively discussion in front of some of the members of the Clean Campaign Committee.
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Score one for Toledo Mayor Jack Ford.

The Clean Campaign Committee yesterday rejected a complaint that Mr. Ford used "push polling" against challenger Carty Finkbeiner.

After a half-hour hearing, the five-member board agreed that the Ford campaign's poll fell short of a push poll because it didn't reach "vast numbers" of voters and the information was not "false and damaging."

Mr. Ford's campaign manager, Megan Vahey, said, "We're certainly pleased that the Clean Campaign Committee issued a very clear opinion."

Bob Reinbolt, spokesman for Mr. Finkbeiner, said, "We agree to disagree on this one; it's pretty clear it's a push poll, but they were hung up on numbers, I guess."

The complaint came from Barbara Topping, an activist in the Lucas County Democratic Party, which has endorsed Mr. Finkbeiner in the Nov. 8 election.

One of the questions she said she was asked by a pollster was, "If someone told you The Blade, Marcy Kaptur, and the UAW were endorsing Ford, would that make a difference in the way you vote?"

Neither The Blade nor Miss Kaptur has made an endorsement. The United Auto Workers union has endorsed Mr. Ford.

Mr. Finkbeiner's advocate, Don Burnard, who is parliamentarian of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said the question about the endorsements was intended to give listeners a false impression.

"I feel that's a misrepresentation," Mr. Burnard said.

Ms. Vahey said the question was part of a legitimate research poll. She refused to provide details about the poll or the text of the questions, but supplied a letter from their pollster testifying that it was not a push poll.

Three other questions alluded to the connections of some people in the Finkbeiner campaign with former Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest, and Mr. Finkbeiner's 1998 ethics conviction.

Mr. Finkbeiner pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor ethics charge of failing to disclose a $10,000 payment made to him in connection with the purchase of his condominium to allow for construction of the Owens Corning world headquarters in 1994.

Mr. Burnard didn't dispute the accuracy of the other three issues.

According to the National Council on Public Polls, a push poll is a telemarketing technique used to feed false information to "vast numbers" of potential voters under the guise of being an objective opinion poll. In the committee's ruling, the Rev. Gary Blaine, senior minister of First Unitarian Church and spokesman for the committee, said 400 people does not meet the definition of a push poll.

The candidates signed a 10-paragraph pledge Sept. 6 in which they agreed not to engage in unethical or misleading campaign tactics, such as push polling, and to disavow supporters who use such tactics on their behalf.

This was the second ruling of the committee. The committee ruled Oct. 4 that criticism of Mr. Finkbeiner by two supporters of Mayor Ford violated the clean campaign pledge.

Mr. Ford has refused to disavow the statements made by his supporters.

Mr. Reinbolt said yesterday the committee's unwillingness to pressure Mr. Ford to live up to the pledge raises questions about the committee's effectiveness. The Ford campaign has claimed the committee's Oct. 4 rulings were ambiguous.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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