In misleading ad, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick ties Dem opponent to cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal
The ad contrasts Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick's work as an FBI agent — serving in tribute to his uncle, a New York police officer killed in the line of duty — with donations made by Scott Wallace's family foundation to "a liberal organization that has given a voice to the convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal."
The ad contrasts Fitzpatrick's work as an FBI agent — serving in tribute to his uncle, a New York police officer killed in the line of duty — with donations made by Scott Wallace's family foundation to "a liberal organization that has given a voice to the convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal."
It quotes local law enforcement leaders as saying Wallace "sickens me," and is "reprehensible" and "dangerous."
The ad flashes a split screen of Wallace next to Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther who is serving a life sentence for killing Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.
Democrats have targeted Fitzpatrick's seat in their bid to take control of the House in November's midterm elections. So it's no surprise that there's already some controversy in the campaign.
It's true that Wallace's family foundation has contributed to Democracy Now!, a nonprofit news organization that has given favorable coverage to Abu-Jamal, who has argued that racism led to his conviction.
Fox News reported in June that Wallace's foundation has contributed $3 million to Democracy Now! since 2003, and that the news organization had given Abu-Jamal a platform "at least 20 times." The House Republican campaign arm seized on those donations, as well as contributions to groups that support the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel.
Here's what we wrote in June about the donations to Democracy Now!:
In the grant description in its 2016 tax filing, the Wallace Global Fund says its contribution to Democracy Now! was made to "promote independent voices in the media."
Of course, Wallace doesn't control the news organization's content, and it's a bit of a stretch to conclude that his donations implied support for a cop killer. [Wallace spokesperson Zoe] Wilson-Meyer said it showed Republicans are "terrified of losing this seat" and will use "any baseless, connect-the-dots smears they can think of to help" Fitzpatrick.
But Republicans think the issue could play well. They used a similar tactic in the 2012 Bucks County congressional race, paying for automated phone calls to voters that pointed to legal work the Democratic nominee's husband had done for a witness in Abu-Jamal's case and for Abu Jamal's literary agent. The incumbent — Michael G. Fitzpatrick, Brian Fitzpatrick's brother — won that election.
Abu-Jamal is so politically toxic that [Sen. Bob Casey] opposed one of President Barack Obama's nominees to the Justice Department in 2014 because the lawyer had supervised an NAACP Legal Defense Fund team that represented Abu-Jamal during an appeal of the inmate's death sentence.
We also noted:
The Wallace Global Fund had $144 million in assets as of 2017, according to its most recent tax filing. It made $12 million in grants and contributions in 2016; recipients included Greenpeace, an environmental group, and a group called Safe Hands for Girls, which works to end female genital mutilation.
The fund's stated mission is "to promote an informed and engaged citizenry, to fight injustice, and to protect the diversity of nature and the natural systems upon which all life depends."
Which is all to say: the ad is misleading. The contributions made by Wallace's family foundation don't translate to editorial control over Democracy Now!'s coverage. Some of the news organization's top stories as of Tuesday morning were headlined "North and South Korea Vow to Denuclearize, Co-Host 2032 Olympics" and "Michael Moore: Senate Must Take Dr. Christine Blasey Ford Seriously & Postpone Kavanaugh Hearing."
The Fitzpatrick campaign would have a stronger case if the contributions had gone to, say, Abu-Jamal's legal defense fund.
That said, the ad is technically accurate on the surface, and the heads of the Fraternal Order of Police in Philadelphia and Bucks County did issue statements, via the Fitzpatrick campaign, condemning Wallace for the contributions.
In a statement, Wallace campaign manager Eric Nagy said Fitzpatrick was trying to "distract from the issues" and accused the Republican of "race-baiting."
The Fitzpatrick campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning.