Dirty tricks? Whitmer mailer is deceptive, may violate state law

Deceptive Gretchen Whitmer mailer.

A deceptive political flyer in support of gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer appears to violate state law and is confusing voters.

The flyer, which began appearing in mailboxes Friday, shows Whitmer looming large in Lansing next to Rev. Alexander Bullock, who is the campaign manager for one of her Democratic opponents, Shri Thanedar.

The pamphlet was financed and sent out by the AFL-CIO, which is endorsing the apparent frontrunner. But the union never received consent from Bullock, a popular civil rights advocate and radio host.

State law bars candidates from posting photos of people without consent if the images imply an endorsement.

What may be worse is how deceptive the pamphlet is. The photo, which appears beneath the words, “Fix the damn roads,” was taken in Lansing in 2012 during a rally in opposition to the anti-union ballot initiative Right to Work.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer and Shri Thanedar campaign manager Rev. David Bullock.

It had nothing to do with roads, and Bullock was not supporting Whitmer as a candidate.

Bullock, who has run Thanedar’s campaign since May, said the pamphlet was “misleading and another case of dirty politics”

“I was shocked to see a picture of myself and Gretchen Whitmer on a campaign mailer,” Bullock said when Muckraker showed him the photo. “I never gave consent to be photographed or for this photo to be used. It is from a rally in fall of 2012 where many rallied in Lansing against RTW. We never spoke. We simply stood on the same podium waiting for our turn to speak. In truth, I don’t know and have never spoken with Gretchen. I find her use of this photo misleading and another case of dirty politics. I have since publicly endorsed Shri Thanedar and never wavered in my support for his candidacy.”

Whitmer spokesman Zack Pohl suggested Thanedar’s campaign was picking “a fight” with the union, even though Bullock only responded to the deception after Muckraker alerted him to the mailer.

“If Shri wants to pick a fight with the Michigan AFL-CIO and its one million union members across Michigan, that’s up to him,” Pohl said. “Gretchen will stay focused on the issues that will make a difference in people’s lives right now, like fixing the damn roads, cleaning up our drinking water, and repealing the Snyder Retirement Tax.”

Whitmer has been criticized for failing to show diversity in her advertisements and early campaign.

Detroit Public Schools Community District board member LaMar Lemmons, who alerted the mailer to Muckraker, said the flyer was objectionable because it gave the impression that Bullock was supporting Whitmer.

“As a voter and political candidate myself, I was confused as to whom Rev. Bullock was supporting,” Lemmons said. “I thought he was the campaign manager for Shri. Now I see his image on the endorsement letter of his candidates opposition; I am confused. Either the AFL-CIO is deliberately misleading the public with the unauthorized usage of Rev. Bullock’s image to deceive the public as to who has the good Reverend’s endorsement or Rev. Bullock is being duplicitous. I’d like to know where the Good Reverend stands?”

The answer: Bullock fully supports Thanedar and was photographed six years ago opposing the anti-union measure.

The other Democratic candidate for governor is Abdul El-Sayed, who has gained ground in recent polls because of his progressive platform.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.