One of the biggest television advertisers in Toledo’s mayoral race is a secretive group calling itself Toledoans for Working Families, according to a check with area TV stations.
The Columbus-based entity is running negative TV ads and mailing advertising against Mr. Bell and urging support for Mr. Collins.
The group has purchased a total of $85,572 worth of television time on TV stations WTOL-11, WTVG-13, WNWO-24, and Buckeye CableSystem.
In comparison, Mr. Bell has purchased $100,250 and Mr. Collins has purchased $46,070.
Toledoans for Working Families's ads call Mr. Bell, the former city fire chief and state fire marshal, an "extremist," and says he sold the Marina District in 2011 to Chinese investor Dashing Pacific Group LLC “for chump change” - a sale price that Councilman Collins supported when council voted 12-0 to approve the $3.8 million sale.
A mailed giant postcard claims, among other things, that the current mayor “slashed services.” A staple of Mr. Bell’s campaign is that he maintained services without raising taxes, in part by taking on the difficult job of forcing concessions on city unions to avoid having to lay off 271 employees.
Only one person is publicly identified with the organization - Treasurer Jeffrey Ruppert, a Columbus lawyer and former deputy legal counsel for Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. He is also treasurer for the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Ed FitzGerald. No Toledoans have been identified publicly.
Mr. Ruppert has not returned repeated phone calls or e-mails seeking comment. A number of labor organizations reached by The Blade denied knowledge of the group.
Mike Gillis, a spokesman for the Ohio AFL-CIO, denied personal knowledge but declined to speak on behalf of the organization. The state AFL-CIO has been a major actor in trying to unseat Mayor Bell, and recently in promoting Mr. Collins. Both candidates are independents, but Mr. Collins has drawn the support of state labor organizations and the Ohio Democratic Party because of Mayor Bell's support in 2011 of Issue 2 and his close relationship with Republican Gov. John Kasich.
One postcard portrays Gov. Kasich pulling a puppet's strings and asks, "Do you ever wonder who is pulling the strings in Mayor Bell's administration?"
Mr. Collins signed a “Clean Campaign Pledge” sponsored by The Blade Sept. 16 vowing to disavow any independent ads that support him that violate the Clean Campaign Pledge. However, in a live debate Tuesday night, Mr. Collins refused to take a stand with regard to Toledoans for Working Families.
Asked in the WTVG-TV, Channel 13 debate if he would disavow the ads, Mr. Collins did not answer the question, instead saying he did not know who produced the ads, which have been running since last week. At least three different postcards have been sent by mail to Toledo voters.
“I have nothing to do with it. I know none of these people," Mr. Collins said. "I'm not responsible for what other people are doing."
One part of the pledge Mr. Collins 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." A story and the content of the pledge can be found at here.
In his rebuttal during the debate, Mr. Bell passed up the chance to remind Mr. Collins of his commitment under the Clean Campaign Pledge.
"That he doesn't know is sort of problematic," the mayor said.
In an interview after the debate the mayor said, “I didn’t slash anything. I actually kept services the same as they were before.”