Update: Moonbeam at CenlaBriarPatch links to this post and raises a few interesting points.

Is William Earl Hilton’s ad really all that wrong? Wagner, without a doubt, has made a fairly big deal about drugs and drug dealers.

More often than not, drug-related convictions are the result of a consensual crime, and it’s been proven repeatedly that rehabilitation is a far more effective public policy than large-scale incarceration. We’re facilitating a culture of repeat offenders. In my personal opinion, the War on Drugs is the most expensive blunder and colossal failure in American history. I also believe that enforcement of drug laws disproportionately targets low-income families. I agree with the two main points of William Earl’s ad:

1) “Nonviolent drug offenders need rehabilitation, not mass-incarceration.”

2) “Criminalizing poverty by locking up the poor, people who need treatment and the underemployed is not the answer.”

So, what’s wrong with William Earl’s commercial? Isn’t he actually raising a valid concern?

No, he’s not. It is provocative to think about the ways in which America’s drug enforcement policies have been counterproductive; it’s a conversation worth having. But it’s completely disingenuous for a man who led the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office for well over a decade to suggest that the guy who replaced him three years ago, with his blessing I might add, is somehow targeting “poor black neighborhoods.” As slick as it may sound, it’s just not true, and it’s a shame that William Earl has spent money promoting this insidious meme. People think it’s a racist ad because, well, it is a racist ad. It directly accuses Chuck Wagner of race-based police enforcement; it directly accuses him of invading “poor black neighborhoods.” If that were even remotely true or if there was even a scintilla of evidence that the incumbent Sheriff of Rapides Parish was invading “poor black neighborhoods,” then I’d support his immediate ouster, even if it meant voting for the guy who used to be Sheriff.

But that’s not the case here. It’s just a race-baiting radio ad, worth at least $7500, written by a couple of unsophisticated campaign workers. The ad is not worth defending; it was an obvious mistake. (Incidentally, I think I recognize the female voice at the very end of the ad).

One more point: Tony Brown, to me, appears more like an agent of the Hilton campaign than an”objective” messenger. In his correspondence with Greg Aymond, Mr. Brown talks about negotiating radio deals with other stations on behalf of the Hilton campaign. I’d be very interested to know where, exactly, the ad was created, along with the entire cast and crew.

**********

Former Rapides Parish Sheriff William Earl Hilton has generated some heat for a commercial that his campaign placed on certain urban radio stations in Central Louisiana, a commercial that attempts to assert that Hilton’s challenger, incumbent Sheriff Chuck Wagner, believes in perpetuating a type of institutional racism against African-Americans. Listen for yourself. The transcript, via The Town Talk:

“Since Rapides Parish Sheriff Chuck Wagner has taken office, more and more of your sons and daughters are behind bars. Nonviolent drug offenders need rehabilitation, not mass-incarceration. Wagner’s aggressive invasion of poor black neighborhoods adds to this state having the highest wrongful conviction rate in the world. Criminalizing poverty by locking up the poor, people who need treatment and the underemployed is not the answer. If we don’t stop Boss Wagner now, we could be stuck with Chuck for another 30 years. Your children and grandchildren deserve better. “Paid for by the Committee to Elect William Earl Hilton for Rapides Parish Sheriff.”

Seriously, who is advising William Earl Hilton? “More and more of your sons and daughters are behind bars”? Chuck Wagner’s one of the reasons we have the “highest conviction rate in the world”? In the world? Really? Does anyone really believe that? “Criminalizing poverty by locking up the poor”? “Aggressive invasion of poor black neighborhoods”? Rapides Parish has many problems, but Hilton’s ad is terribly deceptive and, at the very least race-baiting, if not racist. I understand there is a real possibility that William Earl Hilton may win re-election, but after this radio commercial, he shouldn’t. The ad specifically targeted the listenership of talk radio host Tony Brown, an African-American, and as Hilton’s campaign finance disclosure reports indicate, Tony was paid a small fortune for running those ads. That’s $7500 in less than six weeks, all paid to Eyes Wide Open, Tony Brown’s company. Either Tony has the most expensive radio spots (per capita) in Louisiana or he’s being compensated for something other than merely running a 30-second commercial on his local morning radio show. There is a third option, of course: Tony Brown may just ripping off the Hilton campaign. (If only Hilton were always running for election, Tony could be making more than $100,000 a year, from only one account). Given Tony’s recent remarks, it definitely appears as if he considers himself to be more of a paid spokesman than an objective businessman. Earlier this week, Tony repeatedly embarrassed himself by resorting to profanity and incredulity after Greg Aymond wrote about his involvement with the Hilton ad. Greg, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, for some reason, considered himself to be Tony’s friend, which was backed up by Tony’s phone call to Greg Aymond’s home. Once again, politics makes for strange bedfellows. Incidentally, until now, no one has written about what, exactly, Tony Brown has been paid for his services. Ooops.

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