Something you should know: I’m helping Coble

The Melrose event Monday night.

Last night I went to a debate between Daniel Coble and Moe Baddourah sponsored by the Melrose Neighborhood Association. But I’m not going to tell you what I think about what was said there because I wasn’t there as a blogger. This is complicated by the fact that various people who saw me there, including Moe, probably think I was there as a blogger. So this is to set the record straight.

I’ll start at the beginning.

Lately, a large part of my job with ADCO has been business development. In connection with that, I went to breakfast one morning several weeks ago (Feb. 23) with my old friend Bud Ferillo, and I urged him that if he ever finds himself in a situation where he’s representing a client who needs some of the services that ADCO provides, he should give me a call.

Sometime later (I’m not exactly sure when, but my first email on the subject was on the Ides of March), he gave me a buzz and said he needed some help with the production of some last-minute mailings for the Daniel Coble campaign. Fine. I put him in contact with colleagues here at ADCO with expertise in that area, and they helped him out.

At that point, I wasn’t directly involved, beyond getting people together. (I didn’t even see the mailings until after they were done and gone.) Nevertheless, when I interviewed Moe for this post, and when I interviewed Mike Miller for this one, I mentioned what my company was doing to help out Bud on Daniel’s behalf. Neither of them expressed any concern. (I meant to tell Jenny Isgett when I interviewed her, but later realized I had forgotten. And given the reactions of the other candidates, it didn’t seem worth a separate call. I’ll let you be the judge whether I was right about that.)

Then, over the next couple of weeks, I got slightly more involved, but only in the sense of being a conduit for communications between the campaign and folks at ADCO.

Last Thursday, my status changed. On that day, Bud asked whether ADCO could shoot video at a debate Monday night, and provide YouTube clips contrasting the candidates. I checked, and our usual in-house people couldn’t do it that night. There wasn’t time for handling things the usual way. I went ahead and personally lined up a free-lancer, Brett Flashnick, who readily agreed to help out.

So I was there last night in case he had questions, and also so I could witness the whole debate, and be able to help him in editing the video. This afternoon, Brett and Bud and I spent between two and three hours going through video and choosing some clips of good YouTube length. Brett has left now and will send Bud and Daniel the finished product to see if they approve.

So basically, I’ve been heavily involved now in making editorial judgments about campaign materials. I wasn’t involved in that way at all before, but I am now.

Even before things got to this point, I was worried about what, if anything, I should write about the campaign. When I wrote about all those endorsements that Daniel got on March 29, the news was so helpful (in my opinion) to the Coble campaign that I worried that I wasn’t reporting anything of similar impact from the other campaigns, and that it could look like I was favoring him. But I couldn’t figure out how to balance things out. Neither Moe nor Jenny were generating news like that; I wasn’t seeing anything new to react to.

Now that I write that, I realize that as indirect as my involvement was before, I should have told y’all about it. The fact that it was entering my head, that I was worrying about whether I was being 100 percent fair or not, even a little bit, means I should have told y’all so you could judge for yourselves. But I didn’t. I thought about it, but I decided that I was overthinking things, and that all I would accomplish would be to make the connection sound like a bigger deal than it was. Which is a case of over-overthinking, now that I think further (over-over-overthink) about it.

Also, I thought this: The fact that Daniel was the only candidate advertising on my blog (and I assure you, the other candidates had the same opportunities to do so that he did) was a greater apparent conflict than my indirect involvement with those mailings. And y’all knew about that — you could see the ad — and were therefore forewarned and armed to make any judgments you chose to make as to whether I was being fair.

Regardless of decisions I made in the past, there’s no question now: Y’all should know that I am involved at this point. So, anything else I say about this runoff (which probably won’t be much) must be considered in light of the fact that I’ve definitely, directly, done work to help the Coble campaign. I fact, I invite you to go back and read everything else I’ve written up to now (just use the search feature to look for the candidates’ names), and decide for yourself.

Of course, this is an opinion blog. I never make any pretense to news-style “objectivity.” But what I invite you to do is see whether you think any subjective judgments I’ve made were ones I would have made anyway, without any involvement in the campaign. Actually, what I see when I look back is that I held back from expressing any strong opinions or preferences. Which means that what I wrote was affected. Because that’s not normal for me.

All of this is making my head hurt. This, of course, is why people who make their livings as reporters and editors just don’t get involved, period. Or at least, that’s the way it used to be when there were good, full-time jobs to be had in that field.

Now, increasingly, news (or at least commentary) is brought to you by people who make their livings some other way. Which is something you have long known about me.

Life is confusing here in the New Normal, and all I can figure out to do about it is to tell y’all what I’m doing. Which I just did.

31 thoughts on “Something you should know: I’m helping Coble

  1. tired old man

    Brad, this is a blog, not an editorial page. I remember a lot of angst amongst the editorial types at national gatherings as to whether we’d be compromised if we accepted a free soft drink bar. And then thinking what the hell, the first time I accompanied my publisher/owner to one of his conventions — where the ink people and the paper people, etc were throwing lobster and champagne. And the publisher/owner had been the one dictating the editorial decisions.

    I appreciate your intense efforts at self honesty — but this is a down ballot election.

    I believe you have the winner, largely because Moe has begun to come apart and Jenny has not helped her future by declining to endorse either Moe or Daniel.

    But it all depends upon the turn-out, but we appreciate the fact that we have an honest man in our midst. Appreciate, yes. Know what do with him, not yet!

  2. Steven Davis II

    Gosh, now there’s a surprise. Especially since it’s coming from the man who worshiped the ground Bob Coble walked on.

  3. Brad

    Which of course isn’t true. There would be some justice in using that sort of hyperbole in speaking of my view of Joe Riley. It would still be hyperbole, but there’s no one in SC politics I respect more than Joe.

    It’s different with Bob. I’ve always gotten along cordially with Bob, and I think he did a pretty decent job as mayor, considering how limited the position is. I know that he worked hard at it, and he went out of his way to be fair to everybody he dealt with. He had successes and he had failures. Personally, I like Bob. If he were running for office again, and his opponent was Joe Azar or Kevin Fisher, I’d endorse him again. But that’s about as far as it goes.

    And see, this is why full-time journalists go the extra mile to avoid anything that ANYone, including the least-fair-minded people, could possibly call a conflict of interest. Not because of what “tired old man” will say, but because of the things that the Stevens of the world will say, even without any basis for what they’re saying.

  4. Brad

    Well, I do. And newspapers do. In a world in which everyone was completely thoughtful and fair-minded, people could go ahead and live their lives as fully involved citizens and still do their best to be fair to all involved, and leave it at that.

    But it’s so important not to APPEAR to be unfair to someone who is not inclined to give you any benefit of any doubt, who in fact has decided to regard you as the enemy in light of the mere fact that you have chosen a journalism career, that journalists wall themselves off from political activity to an extent that, in my opinion, it’s actually harmful to the profession.

    Twice in my career, I hired people for key positions as journalists directly from the political world. You know about one — Nina Brook, whom I hired away from Gov. Jim Hodges. I did that because I knew they were skilled and fair journalists, and I believed their time on the INSIDE of politics actually made them more knowledgeable than their more “pure” peers.

    But lots of editors wouldn’t have done that, for fear of what people would say.

  5. Silence

    Everyone got along well with Mayor Bob. He’d never disagree with you, to your face, on any issue. If you said the sky was green, he’d smile and agree.

    He’d do all that and then sell you out in a heartbeat at council though, which is the hallmark of a good politician.

    I can understand and appreciate the full disclosure, but it is a blog, and people come here for your opinions (and the witty banter amongst the regular commenters).

    Since Brad is working as a paid shill for the mini-Coble run off, I hope that I can afford his endorsement when it’s time for “Silence 2014”.

    I will conclude with the punchline of an appropriate story, usually attributed to George Bernard Shaw or Winston Churchill:

    “We have established what you are—we are simply haggling about the price.”

  6. Lynn

    I just need to know you’ve a bias bu I don’t need to know the inner workings of your engagements. Youu work for an advertising and public relations firm. It’s what you do not what you used to do. Get over it.

  7. tavis micklash

    You got to eat. Blogs dont pay the bills typically. Saying that….

    In the past you went out of your way not to endorse any of the district 3 candidates.

    Just to be clear is this meant as a disclosure item or are you endorsing Coble now?

  8. Silence

    @ tavis – A non-endorsement at this point would look pretty bad…

    I doubt the water rate hike story in today’s State is going to help Coble any…

    Speaking of water and sewer money: If Joe Azar’s lawsuit is successful, and the city is forced to reimburse the water & sewer fund for the past transfers, how would it even do that? The city has about 10M of available bond capacity (state law) and can only raise taxes so much (state law). There’s almost no way that they could raise enough money to repay all of the money that they spent.

    Would they severely curtail services? Sell off the water system to raise funds? Lobby the state legislature for relief? Declare bankruptcy? Riddle me that.

  9. Brad

    To clarify, for anyone who is confused… My ENDORSEMENT is not for sale. In case you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t ENDORSED in this or (if I recall correctly) any other city election since leaving the paper.

    Out of all the races we’ve had in that time, I’ve done two things you could call an endorsement, by any stretch. One was for Vincent Sheheen. The other was for Mitt Romney in the SC primary.

  10. Silence

    Brad -I’d like to hear your stance on the water/sewer transfers issue?

    I didn’t mean to imply that your endorsement was for sale, although I guess I pretty much said that when I referred to you as a “paid shill” and said I hoped I could afford your endorsement.

    What I meant to say was: I hope that I can afford to utilize the professional services of ADCO & brad’s blog when I run for political office, and that I hope that current and former newspaper editors and bloggers who sometimes cover topics of local political interest will think that I’m the best candidate.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go clean my nose. It seems to have acquired an umber sheen.

  11. `Kathryn Fenner

    Brad– The Stevens of the world will always see it through their little filters, as do the Dougs of the world. We all have filters, but those who will see only nefarious motives or opportunities for snark will only see such things. No amount of honor will counteract that.

    To the pure, all things are pure. The inverse is also true.

  12. SusanG

    I’m with @Kathryn — choosing a course of action based on people who say things just to get a rise is taking something seriously that wasn’t meant seriously — they’re basically just telling jokes — so no need to respond one way or the other. If you find the joke funny, laugh. Otherwise, ignore it.

    Personally, I don’t find those kind of jokes funny, so I ignore them.

  13. Doug Ross


    I’m not pure. I just don’t set a lower standard for ethics and performance for politicians than I do for regular people.

    For example, there is no amount of “goodness” that Ken Ard could do to reverse my view of him as a politician. He lied and he cheated.

    Politics is about compromise. Compromising ethics is just part of the game.

  14. Cola Native

    Brad- Is it a paid endorsement if you favor one candidate throughout the election and then start working him for payment? It seems like it to me. I think Kevin Fisher got it perfectly correct today in the Free Times when you says that these Coble endorsements are just politic favors being paid back to his father Bob. Bob was a yes man and has a lot of people that owe him. Your thoughts Brad?
    Also, do you agree in the water rate hikes now? And the raping of the water/sewer fund for the last 20 years? It sure would be nice to have that 80 mill now, huh?

  15. Brad

    Cola, I’m not following you when you say, “if you favor one candidate throughout the election and then start working him for payment.”

    Do you have an example of when something like that happened? Please provide supporting citations on the “favor one candidate throughout the election” part. Because I’m unaware of a situation like that.

    Whatever your example, there would have to be an endorsement for there to be a paid endorsement. If that helps.

  16. Mark Stewart

    Someone needs to work on Daniel’s backdrops. He really needs staging. First the guy with toe shoes and now this conglomeration of boxes and whiteboards for a video.

    Substance matters; but image conveys…

  17. Cola Native


    Writing favorable blog entries for one candidate but not calling it an official endorsement is still an endorsement even though not official. Isn’t that what you have done here? I do not regularly following your blog but you are obviously a fan of the Cobles.

    My point is that a blogger can write there opinion about who is the better candidate and also proclaim that they are not getting paid to blog the opinion(s) and then later be hired by the campaign as a payback for the favorable opinions the blogger has issued. Is that a paid endorsement in the end?

  18. Cola Native

    In light of today’s State Paper article about the potential water rate hikes to pay for our crumbling water system, do you believe it was a good decision to transfer 80 mil out of the water fund for the past 13 years? Do you believe it is okay to continue that practice?

  19. Brad

    Well, that helps me. As you say, you’re not a regular reader. If you were, you’d be hard-pressed to show a pattern of favoring any candidate in this election.

    I explained above how this somewhat awkward situation developed. So no, it doesn’t work the way you suppose. At least not in my extremely limited experience, this being the only time I’ve been “paid” by a campaign.

    Note that I put “paid” in quotes. It’s ADCO that’s being paid. If I’ve done my sums right in my head, I should receive a commission on this big enough to eat lunch. Once. If I don’t go anywhere expensive…

  20. Brad

    Oh, and on the water-sewer thing… I’ve never thought it was good to use those funds as a convenient way to avoid making hard decisions about taxing and spending to support city services.

    I can’t say I’ve been that passionate about it, or even followed it that closely.

    I don’t have their positions right in front of me, but as I recall Daniel wants to take a more gradual approach to weaning the city off those funds than, say, Jenny Isgett did. That’s because at the moment, there’s no immediate way to replace the portion of those funds that go to such basic services as police and fire.

    But I’ll need to do some research to make sure I’m even characterizing that right…

  21. `Kathryn Fenner

    Yes, Brad, you have Daniel’s position correct–he realizes that you can’t cut millions of dollars in one fell swoop from the budget w/o cutting essential services like police and fire.

    The legislature hamstrung the cities’ ability to raise the taxes they need.

    and Doug–what I was saying was that you tend to see lots of intentional bad acts (I won’t defend Ard–pleasant is not the same as nice) where I see mistakes and acts that have good explanations when you dig down, which I do. Be kind; be kind; be kind.

  22. Cola Native

    Daniel wants to wean the budget off of w/s funds in 4-5 years. First I think that sounds close to reasonable yet I seriously doubt it will happen and after he is elected, his tune could change in a cloud of gray justification. As we have seen for the last 13 years at least, it is hard to turn off that faucet of money.
    In my opinion I believe that we must stop the transfers within one year. Then find the deficit to the budget in inefficient spending from every department. Not cuts but inefficiencies. If that is accomplished, it will be the first step in keeping the w/s funds in the w/s accounts to be ready for future maintenance, expansion and replacement 20 years from now. That is what I call a vision of the future.

  23. Silence

    Brad, none of the transferred funds go to “basic services” such as police and fire… It’s the old “Big Bird” defense – when your funding is threatened, take the thing people like most and say that you’ll have to cut it. Our taxes that go into the general fund are more than enough to pay for basic services. It’s the niceties and some nasties too that would be tough to pay for.

    Start with finally killing off some of the wasteful economic development corporations. Just getting rid of all of the directors of the various development organizations saves you 500k+ in salaries alone.

    Next, don’t enact any new TIF’s (usually backed by water/sewer revenues.)

    That’s a good start.

  24. Steven Davis II

    So you don’t get paid by candidates, and you don’t endorse candidates… so how do those candidates get their little tags and links on the right-hand side of your blog pages? Do they put them up there by themselves, kind of like a supermarket bulletin board?

  25. Brad

    Those are ads, Steven — which anyone can buy, regardless of whether I support them or not. So no, they are not even remotely like endorsements. They pay for an ad, and an ad is all they get.

    For instance, in the 2010 council elections, I had as many as three candidates at once who were all running against each other advertising on the blog at the same time (Tony Mizzell, Leona Plaugh and Mary Baskin Waters).

    This time, although the same sales pitch was made (via email) to all candidates, only Daniel bought one in that race. (Actually, maybe I should have tailored the pitch more to each individual. For instance, Moe told me he’s patterning his campaign after the successful Seth Rose campaign against him two years ago. Well, Seth bought an ad. I should have pointed that out…)

    Chris Sullivan got a jump on the June primary field. He’s trying to unseat incumbent Joe McEachern. I’ll be sending more notices to other House and Senate candidates about advertising after this city runoff is over.

  26. Brad

    If they buy an ad, you bet I require them to pay for it. Just the way newspapers do. Is there something that’s hard to understand about that?


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