Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Unfortunately, this children’s rhyme doesn’t apply in politics, where your words can hurt your campaign, your party, and your pocketbook.
In 2008, the Iowa Democratic Party sent out a mailer accusing then-congressional candidate Scott Belt of bailing out convicted sex offender Randy Higginbotham from jail.
One small problem, Higginbotham was accused, but never convicted, of any sexual offense.
Higginbotham successfully sued the Iowa Democrats and was awarded $50,000 in November 2011.
If that libel suit wasn’t enough for the Iowa Dems, they’ve now been ordered to pay $200,000 to Republican state Sen. Rick Bertrand. Sen. Bertrand filed a lawsuit, accusing the party of libel and slander, after the Dems ran an ad alleging Sen. Bertrand marketed dangerous drugs to children.
According to the Sioux City Journal, the ad against Sen. Bertrand was approved by his opponent, Democrat Rick Mullen, and paid for by the state Democratic Party. In addition to the party’s $200,000, Mullin will have to cough up another $31,000 for Sen. Bertrand.
These cases should be instructive for campaigns across the country during this election cycle: Check your opposition research; stick to the facts; and keep your lawyer on speed dial.