Mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins has refused to disavow the support of a secretive Columbus organization that has poured more than $85,000 into television advertising to defeat Mayor Mike Bell and elect Mr. Collins.
Mr. Collins last month signed a Clean Campaign Pledge promoted by The Blade in which he promised to repudiate advertising that violates the pledge.
The pledge that the two candidates signed says: “I will not condone or allow outside-party advertising that does not meet the principles contained in this document. If such practices are used by outside parties without my approval, I shall repudiate them immediately and publicly."
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The only known contact for Toledoans for Working Families, Columbus lawyer Jeffrey Ruppert, has not returned telephone calls and emails. No other members have been identified, nor has the organization’s source of funds.
The group has bought $85,572 worth of time on TV stations WTOL-11, WTVG-13, WNWO-24, and Buckeye CableSystem. Mr. Bell has purchased $100,250 and Mr. Collins has purchased $46,070.
That means that Mayor Bell is being outspent on Toledo television in the Nov. 5 election contest.
Mr. Collins said he hasn't seen the ads and has had no communication with the group. Despite his pledge to disavow negative and untrue ads on his behalf, Mr. Collins said he feels released from that part of the pledge because he believes Mr. Bell has violated the pledge with his own ads.
Mr. Bell’s TV ad portrays a grainy black-and-white photo of a serious-looking Mr. Collins while the narrator says that Mr. Collins voted no on three of Mayor Bell's major initiatives. Mr. Collins said the commercial makes him look like a “crotchety old man.”
“I will follow the example of Mayor Bell, since he did use negative tactics against me and he has not repudiated anything that he has done through his campaign. When Mayor Bell steps up and he takes responsibility for his violations of the pledge then I think we have something to discuss. Until that time, my campaign will be a clean campaign. Anything I approve of will be consistent with that pledge,” Mr. Collins said.
A spokesman for Mayor Bell said Wednesday that Mr. Bell’s ads are “factual,” and that the photo of Mr. Collins was not altered.
“It’s not a negative television ad. It compares their records,” said Jen Sorgenfrei, the mayor’s spokesman and a campaign volunteer. The Bell ad asks, "Where would we be now if Collins had his way?"
She said the anti-Bell ads are “xenophobic.” The TV ad and a postcard portrays the Chinese flag and states that, “Mike Bell cares more about creating jobs in China than he does here in Toledo.”
The Toledoans for Working Families’ postcards call the former city fire chief and state fire marshal an “extremist,” and the TV ad says that he sold the Marina District in 2011 to Chinese investor Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. “for chump change.”
Ms. Sorgenfrei said the price reflected the Marina District’s fair market value. Mr. Collins joined council’'s 12-0 vote for the $3.8 million sale.
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