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House Call: Are dueling Loudoun race mailers accurate?

In the online world of opposition research, data can sometimes be misleading.

In our latest look at state House races, we examine two campaign fliers circulating around Loudoun County. One claims that state Del. David E. Poisson (D-Sterling) was late in paying his personal property taxes for four separate years between 1993 and 2001.

The mailers were circulated by Poisson's Republican opponent, Ashburn businessman Thomas "Tag" Greason. Virginia's Republican Party has made the race between Greason and Poisson a competitive one, pouring $147,000 into Greason's campaign. Poisson himself has received $107,000 from the state Democratic Party and $35,000 from the state House Democratic caucus. In a district that could has trended blue but could go red with a Robert F. McDonnell surge in the governor's race, every little bit helps.

But back to the mailer. Poisson, a Sterling lawyer in private practice, said he didn't move to Loudoun until 1995. And his 2001 late payment and penalty can be attributed to a mistake by his mortgage company, he said.

"This is all not true," Poisson said. "There may be an indication of something wrong but it's good to check with the source and they didn't. They knew they had their facts wrong and they went with it anyway."

Loudoun County Treasurer H. Roger Zurn did confirm that Poisson's mortgage company did remit payment of the delegate's 2001 late taxes and that Poisson was not listed as an owner of the property in the early 1990s.

Still, Greason's campaign said late is late, regardless of the situation with Poisson's mortgage company.

"Even David Poisson is not disputing the fact that he paid his property taxes late." Greason's campaign said in a statement.

The statement went on to take issue with a Poisson flier, one that suggested Greason was involved in the bankrupcy of a wireless company he worked for earlier this decade.

"The real issue here is the vile mailers that his allies are sending out attacking Tag," the statement said. "It seems that they are so desperate and so willing to do anything to win, they will send mailers exposing our children to the most vile language ever included in a political attack."

The flier Greason is referring to is one that reads, "Tag Greason's Business Went Bankrupt and Failed to Pay its Debts." It offers a few bullet points that claims that Greason's old company, Cable & Wireless, went bankrupt in 2003 and that Greason served as "vice president."

Both claims are true. But Greason served as vice president of sales and customer relations (hardly a partnership role) and he has publicly spoken of the firm's bankruptcy, referring to it on his LinkedIn profile.

As Greason's campaign manager, John Jackson, noted: "That's like you and I getting blamed for a bankruptcy at the companies where we worked. It's just not accurate."

By Derek Kravitz  |  October 29, 2009; 2:50 PM ET
Categories:  Derek Kravitz , Election 2009 , General Assembly 2009  
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Comments

A couple points about Mr. Poisson's mailers:

1. His mailer regarding the Cable & Wireless bankruptcy deliberately left out the name of the company and completely overstated Mr. Greason's role with the company. The mailer sought to create a perception that Greason ran a company into the ground by making it sound like it was a small company that he owned, when in fact he was one of nearly 100 VPs. Jackson's comment is spot-on - there is no reason to question Greason's business acument just because he worked for a company that went bankrupt. In this economy, that would certainly doom a huge amount of very good people, including many readers of this blog.

2. And the flier that Greason referred to as "vile" was not the business mailer. He refers to a separate mailer that obfuscated the facts concerning a 15 year old complaint filed against Greason. Although Poisson's mailer tried to elicit reaction by calling the matter a sex scandal (and included some salacious language that many Loudoun residents were angry about having to explain to their children), it failed to indicate that the matter was thoroughly investigated and Mr. Greason was completely exonerated by both his commanding officer and the prosecuting attorney. In other words, Poisson is trying to win political points by "educating" the public about an event that NEVER HAPPENED.

The Cable & Wireless mailer, to a certain extent, is excusable. In the dirty world that politics has become, I suppose that things like this are fair game. It's up to the candidates to talk about them and bring the truth to light.

But the sex mailer is different altogether. It brings the race into the gutter and pollutes mailboxes all over the country with filth. If a candidate is going to bring this kind of filth into the race, he better sure that he has all the facts. That he intentionally omitted the most relevant facts demonstrates that he is willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if it means dragging himself and his constituents into the gutter with lies and fabrications that seek to destroy and good, hardworking, family man. This kind of politics is about personal destruction, not policy.

Hopefully, Loudoun voters will see the forest through the sleaze and punish Mr. Poisson for these tactics next Tuesday.

Posted by: BillBarker1 | October 30, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Barker, apparently Mr Greason is more guilty of filth--far more--than Dave Poisson given his history of fondling himself in front of female co-workers in his military service! You claim he has been "exonerated" but that is apparently NOT what the woman who file the complaint is saying!

Explaining to children!? Please....voters ought to know the character of those that are asking for their votes for public office, no? After what your lot did during the Clinton scandal, you actually have the gall to get on your high horse? UNREAL!!

Such indignant outrage over filth, perhaps you ought to look back over your shoulder?

David Poisson is a good man and a distinguished legislator. The "salacious" language you refer to was hardly embarassing for anyone with a grasp on reality!

Lastly, I am SURE (absolutely sure!) that Tag Greason and every Republican running for office has NEVER had any problems with mortgage escrow payments! Never!

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | October 30, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Doug:

Given the legal problems she would create for herself if she backed away from her statements, I wouldn't expect her to retract them, but she has expressed the hope that the publicity surrounding the story wouldn't tarnish his campaign. So, it sounds to me like she's not the driving force for the story (shocker!). As for the exoneration, it strikes me as more telling that the prosecuting attorney and the commanding officer of the unit in which Greason AND the complainant served each concluded that the event described NEVER HAPPENED.

As for your reference to the Clinton scandal, do you really want to use that as an example of taking a sex scandal too far? Given that the left wanted to characterize that as a sex issue (rather than a perjury issue) in a way to lessen its seriousness, I find your reference beyond ironic.

Finally, I'll agree with you that the issue regarding Poisson's taxes seem to be a silly diversion, but it has always been couched in terms of Poisson's record, which also includes support for huge tax increases, despite his rhetoric on keeping taxes low. (But do you really think that the comments on Poisson's tax record is so far out of bounds to even compare to sex issue?)

Which brings me to the most important point. Greason has run an honorable campaign, drawing distinctions between himself and Poisson's record. Poisson has brought the campaign into the gutter, first by grossly exaggerating Greason's role in the Cable & Wireless bankruptcy (completely laughable) and now by talking about this so-called scandal that never took place.

Over the last year and a half, we have heard a lot from the left about changing the game and making politics more about the issues than about the gamesmanship. And that rhetoric carried them a long way last year. But it's been a year now, and we're still waiting to see it. In fact, things have gotten far worse in the last year, and Mr. Poisson's tactics in this race have only cemented the notion that the Democrats have no interest in bringing any degree of civility or debate in this arena.

For this reason, among many others, we need to get Poisson out of Richmond to send a signal that we have had enough. And if Mr. Greason slings the same kind of mud at his challenger two years from now, we should send him packing as well. But for this campaign, I can see which of the two have run the more honorable campaign, and the comparison isn't even close. Tag Greason has my vote on Tuesday and he should have yours as well.

Posted by: BillBarker1 | October 31, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

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