By Len Lazarick and Glynis Kazanjian
David Blair, a Democratic candidate for Montgomery County executive, objected so strongly to a cable TV ad attacking him that his lawyers told Comcast Spotlight that it “should remove or reject it.”
But after reviewing the ad by the Progressive Maryland Liberation Alliance PAC, Comcast Spotlight said it found the ad part of “reasonable political debate” and continues to run the ad on cable channels in Montgomery County.
The 30-second TV ad (click here to watch the ad) continues attacks by union and progressive groups on Blair as a wealthy but politically inexperienced businessman, similar to Donald Trump, trying to buy the election. But it also attacks Blair’s business practices as CEO of a large pharmacy benefits manager, citing a blog post on the left-leaning Daily Kos and saying “Blair’s company jacked prescription drug prices, and another company sold virtually worthless disability claims.”
The ad got immediate pushback from the candidate and his campaign in a June 15 Washington Post story in which his campaign strategist called the allegations “misinformation, lies and smears.”
Also on June 15, Blair’s lawyer, Brian Svoboda of the firm Perkins Coie in Washington, wrote to Comcast Spotlight, the advertising sales division of the cable giant, calling the charges “false and entirely unsupported,” refuting the charges about drug pricing.
Svoboda’s letter goes on to say: “This Super PAC has no ‘right to command the use of broadcast facilities’ for this false and unsupported ad. Your station has full power to reject it for any reason. It would be fully responsible for the defamation and any other torts that might result from the dissemination of this attack on Mr. Blair’s reputation and fitness as a businessman. To air this advertisement, while knowing its claims are specious and unsupported, is inconsistent with your station’s duty ‘to protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising.’ ”
Comcast Spotlight’s corporate spokesperson, who did not wish to be identified, declined to say if its own lawyers had reviewed the letter or the ad, but the company decided to continue running it.
Funded by unions supporting Elrich
Progressive Maryland Executive Director Larry Stafford Jr. said in a statement:
“David Blair has put high-priced lawyers on an effort to stop the truth from coming out about his record for more than a week and they have failed. His record does not speak to Democrats and he’s understandably panicked.”
According to reports filed with the State Board of Elections by Stafford, the Progressive Maryland Liberation Alliance PAC is spending $130,000 on media opposing Blair, who is spending millions of his own money on the campaign. The Progressive Maryland super PAC is largely funded by labor unions, including those representing Montgomery County public employees and the state teachers union, which are backing Democrat Marc Elrich for county executive. There was also a $50,000 donation from Caitlin Heising of San Francisco, a member of a liberal philanthropic family in California.
Independent super PACs have no limits on campaign contributions, unlike direct contributions to a candidate under Maryland law, and candidates may spend unlimited amounts of their own money on their campaigns.