In the News

Great Falls Tribune: Rosendale asks TV stations to yank ad

Thursday, October 11, 2018

By Phil Drake, Great Falls Tribune

An attorney representing Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale sent out a letter to various Montana television stations Wednesday calling on them to quit running an anti-Rosendale commercial regarding a Great Falls subdivision, saying the ad is “blatantly false and misleading …”

The letter by Chris K. Gober of the Gober Group calls for a cease and desist of running the advertisement regarding Matt Rosendale.

“It has come to our attention that Montanans for Tester is airing a blatantly false and misleading advertisement on your station regarding Mr. Rosendale,” the letter states.

Rosendale is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in the Nov. 6 election. At the beginning of the ad Tester says he approves of its content. The ad is paid for by Montanans for Tester.

Dewey Bruce, president and CEO of Montana Broadcasters Association, said such requests to pull political ads have become “fairly common” in recent years

“In general the station will contact their own attorney and determine if they will run it or not,” he said.

He also said that by law, a radio or TV station cannot change the content of a candidate’s ad. But they can pull third-party ads.

Such is the case at KFBB. News director Megan Lewis said there is nothing the station can do as it’s a candidate’s ad and “it’s a legal battle between attorneys.”

In the 30-second spot, Mike Raile, the former homeowners’ association president, said his family bought a house in Rosendale’s Eagles Crossing housing development.

“Like our neighbors, we were excited to raise our family there. We were promised a lot, but Matt Rosendale didn’t deliver,” Raile says, adding that the homes were built with weak foundations.

Gober said the ad gives the false impression Rosendale was responsible for the design and home construction. He also said courts have found Rosendale and his company were not involved and ruled in favor of Rosendale in its summary judgment.

He also notes that the plaintiffs’ attorney, Stephanie Oblander of Great Falls, has called the advertisement unfair.

“Given that the courts of Montana and the plaintiffs’ attorney, who litigated the claims against Mr. Rosendale have refused the truth of the advertisement, it is clear that Montanans for Tester is airing a blatantly false and misleading advertisement that defames Mr. Rosendale,” Gober states.

Raile said Wednesday he stands by his comments and believes Rosendale let the residents down.

Chris Meagher, spokesman for Tester, said “We will continue running this ad until every Montanan sees Matt Rosendale’s history as a developer and pattern of avoiding responsibility.”

He said it is a matter of public record that multiple families sued Rosendale’s company for negligence after experiencing problems with their homes in the development.

“Rosendale was warned before the homes were built about potential problems and he chose to ignore those warnings,” Meagher said.

According to the Tester campaign, residents sued Rosendale four times after their homes began experiencing structural issues. Some of the litigation goes back as far as 2010. They note he was party to a settlement in one case.

This letter surfaces the same time that a woman who lives in the Eagle Crossing subdivision said her home was featured in the ad without her consent and has asked Tester’s staff to remove it from the commercial.

Anna Hewitt told the Tribune she has not had any structural problems with her home.

Hewitt, a Democrat who turned Republican during the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump, said people are now calling her and asking if her house has a weak foundation. She said other neighbors without home issues are angry as well.

“I want it removed or else we will go after them,” she said.

She first saw the ad while watching a recording of “Dr. Phil” on TV.

“All of a sudden I see my house,” she said. “I put it on pause and said ‘What the heck?’”
She then told her daughter “do not delete that” and her phone starting ringing with friends asking what was wrong with her house.

“I understand what (Tester campaign) is trying to say and what to do, but I don’t understand him using my property to get that message across,” she said.

Mark Doll, who said he is Hewitt’s neighbor, agrees.

“In time it could affect housing prices,” he said. “I sure don’t want to be involved in anything with politics.”

Like Hewitt, he understands what the candidate wanted to do, “but it’ went too far.”

Doll would not say what party he supports.

“My political views shouldn’t matter,” he said. “Whatever party would have done it I would have felt the same way.”

Link to full article here.