Guilt by association can be dicey stuff.
But my mama set me straight when I was a young boy:
“Be careful who you pick as friends, who you associate with. They could be a bad influence on you,” she told me.
“Lots of people will judge you by who your friends are.”
When I listened to her advice, I did fine. When I didn’t, I got into trouble. I also got a slap upside the head, but that story is for another day.
There is probably no place more important to be cautious about who you associate with than in politics.
You don’t think so?
Ask President Obama. When he was running for president, he ended up with more than a few slaps upside the head after his opponents were able to tie him to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Obama was a member of the church where Wright hung his hat.
Wright is a grenade thrower. He can yell and shout and call people names with the best of them.
At first, Obama tried to dismiss it with what sounded like sound logic.
“Hey, he’s not running for president, I am.” He also tried the “I don’t believe in what he says” line.
But it wouldn’t go away. Eventually Obama had to do more and did. He left the church. Still, his connection to Wright followed him throughout the campaign.
Apparently, his mama didn’t give him the same advice my mama gave me.
A local example?
I thought of this guilt-by-association thing as one of our own local campaigns began to heat up.
The 18th Legislative District has an open seat because the incumbent — Jaime Herrera — has decided to run for U.S. Congress.
And the frontrunner — by almost all standards — is Ann Rivers. The Columbian also has endorsed her as the strongest candidate in the race.
Personally — although I don’t know her well — I like her. She’s got this sort of positive, upbeat thing that is pretty cool.
But there may be a growing burden weighing her down. It’s a guy named Kelly Hinton.
Rivers says she’s friends with Hinton.
“I’m not going to run away from that,” she says when asked.
Still, she knows of Hinton’s reputation because of his biting, shot-laden political blog. She doesn’t read his blog, she says, but she’s had enough insiders tell her how mean it is.
It’s not unusual, for example, for Hinton to call the folks he opposes stuff like, “A waste of political skin, and “despicable politician.” He proudly proclaims that he will “beat you like a mule” just to make sure you realize he won’t let up.
Nice guy, right? And a friend of Rivers’.
Rivers says that when she’s out doorbelling, she hears absolutely nothing about Hinton and his blog. She suggests that it’s mostly an insider blog.
I’d agree. I suspect that outside of the core political junkie set, it gets no traction.
But then I thought back to Obama and figured the Rev. Wright had no traction until a few political opponents got hold of it. Then the media got hold of it. Then the nation.
Back in Clark County
Now, this isn’t a presidential race, but here in Clark County things could be heating up. Hinton’s blog has now spawned an anti-Hinton blog. And it’s dragging up Hinton’s not-so-pure past.
Hinton’s past has been well reported by the mainstream media, including us. He was quite the piece of work in his heyday. He was sort of a political operative, using fake names to say stuff about those he didn’t like. Kage McClued was one of his favorite fake names. He even got letters printed in The Columbian under the fake name until we caught him and banned him from writing letters here.
Then there was that suspension when he was a legislative aide. Something to do with gaining access to — and disclosing — Senate employees’ personal e-mail.
Eventually he, ah, left Olympia and found his way back to our neck of the woods.
In my telephone conversation with Rivers, I asked her if she knew the name Kage McClued. She said no. Then I asked her if she knew that she was “friends” with a Kage McClued on Facebook. On Facebook, you have to accept someone as your friend, so you know whom you’re “friending.”
My telling her that surprised her a bit, and she confessed she’s not the most social-media-savvy person in the world. She said her aides often do some of her “friending.”
Still, McClued’s name is all over her Facebook page, telling those who visit that he likes various things that Rivers has posted.
I then asked Rivers if she knew that Hinton and the fake McClued are one and the same person. She said she did not know that either, although after I brought up the McClued name several times, she did say she may have seen the name on her Facebook page.
I moved to a discussion about her campaign. Has Hinton helped her at all on her campaign? At first she said no. Then she corrected herself.
“No that’s not exactly true. He drives in parades for me. But that’s about it.”
So it started adding up:
• She had earlier acknowledged that she has had a business relationship with Hinton.
• She is a friend of Hinton’s.
• She has “friended” the fake McClued, who is really Hinton, on Facebook.
• She has had Hinton drive in some of the parades her campaign has entered.
So is all of this a deal-breaker? Not for me. It does show a little naiveté on her part. But then, so did Obama when it came to Wright.
Some will criticize us for even reporting this. But then, some criticized the national media for bringing up Wright. I believe it’s our job to bring you information. Your job is to decide how relevant it is.
Let me add that Rivers was composed and articulate throughout our conversation. Unlike most of the stock answers politicians have for most of our stock questions, this interview was off the cuff and — I suspect — quite difficult. I give her high marks. She concluded by saying that Hinton has been paid no money by her during this campaign and that if she’s elected, Hinton would not be on her payroll. My conclusion after all of this? She’s still the best candidate in the race.
And my advice to Rivers? Don’t forget to listen to your mama.
Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.