TOM WARD - AG's decision opens door to outbreak of campaign lies

TOM WARD - AG's decision opens door to outbreak of campaign lies

The ruling by the office of state Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, a Democrat, that unsigned last-minute emails and political fliers, filled with lies, are allowed under law, should send yet another chilling message to any political outsiders - particularly Republicans - that no stone will be left unturned to keep the state entrenched in Democratic Party and pro-labor hands. Considering this ruling, every candidate has to ask himself or herself, "Why bother?"

Of course, shameless Republicans could also decide to lie aggressively in the final day and hours of a campaign. Why not? In today's world of social media and instant messaging, why not talk about a candidate's wife and kids? Maybe your opponent is pro-life, and you write that his wife had an abortion. Or maybe you can tweet that your opponent was a junkie and did rehab 20 years ago. Just make it all up! The Rhode Island office of the American Civil Liberties Union makes the claim that it just might be protected free speech.

The dismissal of charges by Kilmartin's office came in response to the arrest of Robert Horowitz, a Democrat campaign consultant for state Sen. Stephen Archambault. Horowitz allegedly distributed materials injurious to candidate James Archer and other Smithfield Republicans in 2012. The AG's office threw out the charge because the state law mirrors an Ohio law that was already overturned. I reluctantly have to agree the Superior Court trial in this case would have been a waste of time, under the circumstances.

I would urge today's General Assembly to get going on a new state law, taking into account new media, that limits in some way the out-and-out lies that will now be allowed in this fall's races.

And I would more strongly urge voters - particularly those in Smithfield where this behavior seems rampant - to pay no attention at all to fliers, emails and any social media in the closing days of any campaign. They're most likely going to be garbage and lies. Ignore them.

* Speaking of high-tech campaigns, will someone take me off the phone list please? I got a recorded robo-call from Woonsocket's new mayor, Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, asking for my support of her city's firefighter union president, Mike Morin, as the new state representative replacing her. The call came Monday, prior to the city's special election Tuesday. Hello? McFly? I live in Cumberland, at least five miles from Woonsocket. How much are you candidates paying for this "technology"? And who among us is lonely enough to listen to the entire message? (No offense to the mayor). Click!

* Congratulations are in order for Smithfield's move to have new police and firefighters serve 25 years on the force, and to at least the age of 55, before collecting pension benefits. Yes, it's true, as it applies to "new" personnel, savings are still a long way off. But it's a common-sense start and mirrors a move by Lincoln a few years ago. It should be the same in every community. Paying 40 years of pension benefits for 20 years of service is ludicrous and unsustainable. It needs to end.

* Gov. Lincoln Chafee's final budget (whew!) calls for an increase of spending of $330 million, or 4 percent, from last year. Did you get a 4 percent raise? The state wants one. Seven new state employees are needed at the Department of Labor to oversee the expansion of temporary disability benefits to caregivers, providing yet another kick in the teeth to small businesses trying to get some work done.

* By the way, I'll give a damn about what Taylor Swift has to say (offstage) when she pays Rhode Island state income taxes. She doesn't. I'm sure she's officially a resident of a state with no income tax, as any well-advised superstar would be.

* As I watched two possible touchdown passes float through the thin Denver air over New England Patriots receivers in Sunday's AFC Championship, I thought ruefully, the Brady era is nearing its end. We may never get to enjoy another as great as he is.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers