Illinois Voters Beware: Deceit Season Is Here

Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

It's deceit season. Voters beware.

An envelope arrived last week from Friends of Marty Moylan. The letter inside was dated Aug. 16th and in big type, it read: "Petition to Crack Down on Child Sex Abuse."

"As a father, husband and state Representative, I take accusations of sexual abuse and assault very seriously, especially when it involves children," Moylan's letter began.

I don't know about you, but I'm guessing we'd have a hard time finding anyone who would say differently.

"That's why I was appalled" the letter went on, "to learn that former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert would not be charged with sexual crimes he allegedly committed against children as a wrestling coach."

Now, wait. What was the date on this letter again? Hastert was sentenced at the end of April.

Moylan's just now getting around to telling his constituents he's outraged? The letter goes on to say he pushed for bills to change the statute of limitations, but they have not been signed into law. Therefore, Moylan's letter says, he's asking me to sign his petition calling on Springfield to pass a law immediately. That sentence was bolded and underlined. Where do we go to sign the petition? Not to Moylan's government website. No, we're supposed to sign at www.martyforstaterep.com or we can call a phone number.

Moylan might very well be upset there's a statute of limitations for child sex assault. He was added as a co-sponsor to a bill that sought to end the child sex abuse statute of limitations a week before it passed out of the House to the Senate. Still, this letter also is plainly an attempt by him to get updated contact information from people who live in his district as he runs for re-election. I've heard about a few of these types of petition appeals lately.

Moylan did not do anything wrong that I'm aware of. In fact, the letter notes it was not paid for by taxpayers.

But to hook people who are worried about child sex abuse and angry about Republican Hastert into giving contact information so you can hit them up with appeals to vote for you is disingenuous.

Beware who's asking for what information and where it's going.

It's time also to pay particular attention to what you read. Just because something looks like a newspaper does not necessarily mean it is unbiased and produced by professional journalists. My Des Plaines neighborhood now gets the "North Cook News" on a weekly basis, while a portion of Springfield is having the "Sangamon Sun" delivered to homes. Political activist, former governor candidate and conservative radio host Dan Proft is financing the weekly newspapers -- through his Liberty Principles PAC -- in areas with competitive legislative races. There are a total of 13 such partner publications listed on the North Cook News website.

If you dig deeply enough on the website or in the print product, you will find this: "We believe in limited government, in the constructive role of the free market and in the rights of citizens to choose the size and scope of their government and the role it should play in their society. Funding for this news site is provided, in part, by advocacy groups who share our beliefs in limited government."

Jackie Spinner, of Columbia Journalism Review, first brought this effort to my attention in March. Proft told her then that mainstream news media "pretend that they are just objective scribes detailing the passing scene, and they're not. Everybody has a perspective. Everybody has an agenda. I'm transparent about mine."

In my role here, I get to share my view in spots clearly labeled as commentary. Sometimes, I critique Republicans; sometimes Democrats. Other times, I keep my opinions out of reported stories. You might have trouble understanding that Proft's publications are not likely to share negative information about Republican state legislative candidates running in the general election.

As I told Spinner last spring, "It looks to me like a piece of campaign literature masquerading as a newspaper."

I'm an equal-opportunity critic. A few days ago, there was much ado in the state comptroller's race when a reporter gave the candidates a pop quiz on multiplication. This is supposed to be relevant because the comptroller keeps the state's checkbook. Republican Leslie Munger failed and Democrat Susan Mendoza did not. Trust me, the elected comptroller will have computers and qualified state employees doing the math. If the quiz made you realize there was a comptroller election, then it did some good. But you should make your voting decision on more than a gimmicky pop math quiz. And every time you see, hear or read about journalists covering candidates and campaigns, ask yourself whether what they're doing really is relevant and will help you decide who best can solve the challenges we face.

That's what we should be doing: helping you vote well.