In 2016, one of the highest profile Colorado Senate races featured a particularly misleading and race-baiting line of attack against now-Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger. Ads targeting Zenzinger’s district falsely accused her of using taxpayer funds for a trip to China when she served on the Arvada City Council. After fact-checkers ripped these ads for their brazenly false claims, the GOP-aligned “independent” group behind them doubled down–sending an actual fortune cookie to thousands of voters in the district. The outcry over this unrepentant campaign of truthless attacks ultimately became its own news story, and it’s the general consensus today that the determination to make this story stick ultimately backfired–and helped Zenzinger win her seat.
So it came as a fairly rude shock in early 2017, when the Zenzinger “fortune cookie” mailer was honored as Best Mail Piece For Independent Expenditure Campaign for the 2016 elections. Campaigns & Elections, the water-cooler politics news outlet who hands out the Reed Awards, apparently didn’t care about, you know, the outcome–just the cleverness of the mail piece, which in this case also had the distinction of being patently false and kind of racist. Yay everybody!
Well folks, as Ernest Luning reports for the former Colorado Statesman, in 2018 they’ve done it again:
The awards, sponsored by Campaigns & Elections magazine and named for the political journal’s founder, Stanley Foster Reed, were handed out at a conference on Feb. 27 in Charleston, South Carolina. They recognized work in a multitude of categories, including direct mail, campaign branding and TV and digital ads.
EIS Solutions and its sister Ascent Media firm won three of the awards, all involving TV ads — one for a an ad slamming U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’ involvement in Greeley City Council elections, another for an ad touting wind power and a third a wind ad that had the best use of drone footage.
Our readers know quite a bit about last year’s Greeley City Council races, and not because Rep. Jared Polis made relatively puny donations that usual-suspect opponents blew out of all earthly proportion. Just before the election, something bad happened to the slate supported by the oil and gas industry and their friends at EIS Solutions:
That’s right! Eddie Mirick, whom the above ad helped elect, was removed from office after his felony conviction was uncovered, violating the city charter, and the City Council seat was handed to his opponent–that is, the candidate this award-winning ad was attacking by proxy. That leaves us really uncertain what was so deserving of an honor in what amounts to a weird inside-baseball bank shot with an outcome that no one should be proud of.
And after two such instances of rewarding frightfully bad behavior from the allegedly prestigious Reed Awards in as many years, we think it’s worth asking the question: are these awards just the masturbatory oohing and ahhing from the political consultant class they appear to be, with no concern about ethics–or even the results?
Because with no offense to other winners, that’s an award we would decline.