Holy shit! The new flyer by Mary Norwood is by far the dirtiest, most negative message to come out of this mayor's race so far. In fact, it prompted me to wonder what the legal boundaries are for Constitutionally protected political speech.
As you can see, the headline reads:
Kasim Reed: Late paying his taxes, but wants to raise yours.
OK, it's clear that Norwood's not going to let this tax allegation drop, even though the AJC's Jim Galloway offered a self-described "fact check on taxes" that thoroughly rebutted Norwood's claims:
My AJC colleague Cameron McWhirter and other reporters spent weeks vetting the major mayoral candidates this summer.
In the course of that reporting, McWhirter checked Fulton County tax records. Reed met with him and provided detailed documentation about his financial holdings, real estate and tax payments. Reed owed no back taxes at the time of the meeting and owes none now.
The flyer provides a link to a story that WSB-TV ran after getting a tip from the Norwood campaign, but even that two-and-a-half-minute piece shows the unpaid tax claim to be a non-story.
Then there's the other allegation: that Reed wants to raise taxes. I've interviewed Reed several times, sat in on numerous debates and forums and read all his campaign material and yet I have no idea where this claim is coming from.
The only thing I can imagine it that, on some occasion, when asked if he would consider raising taxes if it were the only way to keep the city from defaulting on its bond obligations, he said yes as any halfway responsible politician would. Someone who claims he'd never consider a tax increase under any circumstances is, IMHO, unsuitable for public office, much like a presidential candidate who says he'd never consider taking the country to war.
The flyer goes on to say that "Kasim Reed supported sales tax and multimillion-dollar property tax increases." What's Norwood talking about here?
Well, in this case, she cites the referenced bills which makes her claims even more outrageous. In the case of the alleged sales tax increase, she's talking about SB 39, the regional transportation funding bill that civic leaders across metro Atlanta were praying for during this year's legislative session. If Reed had managed to pass the bill over GOP opposition, he'd have been carried down Peachtree Street on the back of a chariot while showered with rose petals. And Norwood posits this as a negative?
And the purported "multimillion-dollar property tax increase?" It was a bill to create a citywide referendum to allow voters to decide whether they wanted to establish a dedicated tax to fund public safety. In other words, Reed's proposal would have let taxpayers make that call for themselves. At the time, I considered the bill something of an election gimmick since it seemed unlikely to pass, but it's certainly a valid idea and Norwood is being disingenuous if that's her evidence that Reed "wants to raise taxes."
The flyer is so misleading overall that I asked Michael Owens, a political science professor at Emory University, how far a candidate is allowed to stretch the truth about his or her opponent. Could a candidate get away with claiming, for instance, that her opponent was a rapist if it wasn't true?
Owens conceded that the legalities are fuzzy and he'd never heard of a candidate successfully bringing legal action against an opponent.
But he agreed that the flyer represents a sharp about-face for Norwood.
"She's probably realized that her best chance to become mayor has already passed to win the race outright on Nov. 3 and now she's coming out negative," he said.
Here's the other side of the flyer:
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