Passing off endorsements that never took place, however, can be very harmful, especially when the public figure denies such an endorsement.
2nd District Republican congressional candidate Charles Thompson has released a mailer that implies an endorsement by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. We inquired into the matter, and discovered that Coburn has not endorsed in this race, nor any other primary in Oklahoma.
Sen. Coburn issued the following statement today:
"Oklahoma Republicans living in the Second Congressional District are blessed with a field of outstanding candidates. I am greatly encouraged by the focus of many of these candidates on restoring the constitutional principles that have made this nation the most free and prosperous on earth, and in stopping the spending addiction in Washington.
Because there has been some confusion over the past few days, however, I want to make clear that I am not endorsing any candidate in this Primary election. I look forward to seeing the decision that voters make next week and then sitting down with our nominee to discuss the urgent cause we all share." [emphasis mine]
I spoke with Thompson's campaign consultant, Josh McFarland, who affirmed that the Thompson campaign did not get permission from Coburn to use his picture, and did not dispute that it could appear as an endorsement.
McFarland said that they didn't so much view Coburn as a candidate or a Senator, but "as a movement" that Thompson wanted to identify with. He further stated that "images portray more meaning", speaking of their decision to use the Coburn picture, rather than just using text. The picture of Coburn was placed directly underneath Thompson's endorsements.
It doesn't take much to realize that one should not imply non-existent endorsements, and no campaign manager or consultant should approve such an unethical move. It passes off a false impression, and attributes action to someone who never did what was implied.
Senator Coburn is a very influential figure in Oklahoma politics. Attempting to mislead voters about having a Coburn endorsement is not only wrong, but is unfair to the other candidates in the race as well as the Republican primary voters, not to mention Senator Coburn.
I'm disappointed to see the Thompson campaign express no apology for their actions, and to in fact defend them.
UPDATE: a copy of the mailer is below.