Friday, Oct. 28 — A Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce front group is using City Pulse property without permission in its campaign against City Council candidate Derrick Quinney. Moreover, Quinney’s camp is accusing the group, Greater Lansing Progress, of “race-baiting” by doctoring a photograph to make Quinney appear “more menacing, more black,” a consultant for Quinney said today.
“It’s a political strategy Republicans have used for decades,” said Joe DiSano, a consultant with Main Street Strategies, which is consulting for Quinney’s campaign. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”
DiSano added that one of the candidates endorsed by the Chamber, Rory Neuner, is “benefiting from this bigoted campaign. … It’s a racist political strategy.”
The mailing in question is from a group called Greater Lansing Progress, an “issue-advocacy” group affiliated with the Chamber. See for yourself: The image in this story is taken from City Pulse’s website in a July 27 story.
Tim Daman, president and CEO of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, said it’s “appalling” that DiSano would label the business group a “racist organization.”
“For them to make that accusation, I sure as hell hope it goes public that we’re disappointed that anyone would stoop to that level,” Daman said of DiSano. “They have candidate trouble and this is what they’re stooping to.”
Daman said Greater Lansing Progress is an “effort and initiative within the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.” Mlive.com reported Oct. 4 that the group is exempt from campaign finance disclosure because it’s considered an “issue advocacy group.” Members of the group’s steering committee include John Truscott of the public relations firm Truscott Rossman and Ron Simon, board chairman of the Chamber, according to a Greater Lansing Progress announcement on the Chamber’s website from July. The announcement also says: “The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRCC) has joined with a broad-based community coalition that seeks to change the nature of the public discussion and outcome of critical issues that affect our region. The coalition has formed a first of its kind effort to unify the community around a common vision of greatness.
“Greater Lansing Progress – It’s Your Community, Too (GLP) has been established as a community conversation to define and work toward progress in building a great region. GLP organizers also intend for the coalition to work aggressively to put the community conversation into action.”
The photo in question — and the same photo Greater Lansing Progress has used in other mailings attacking Quinney for his position on medical marijuana dispensaries — was taken by City Pulse after a community forum held on June 16 at the Foster Community Center in Lansing.
Regardless of whether the photo was actually darkened, it was stolen. An attorney with the Michigan Press Association said the group violated the Pulse’s intellectual property rights by using the photo in its campaign literature. City Pulse learned that Greater Lansing Progress was using its work today and never gave permission to the group to use it.
“You guys have copyright protection. They’re your photos. They’re your copyright,” attorney Jennifer Dukarski said in an interview. Dukarski specializes in intellectual property and media law at Butzel Long in Ann Arbor.
Daman admitted that the photo was taken “off the (City Pulse) website and Google. It was an image on Google, that’s where the image was taken from.”
Dukarski said the photos “are not a free-for-all.” She added that “I definitely see it a lot more” as campaign season ramps up.
As for the alleged darkening of the photos, DiSano said: “This is dangerous for the region.”