A recent content analysis by Little Green Blog considers the websites for John Replogle ’88 and Mort Kondracke ‘60, the Alumni Council-nominated candidates for Trustee in 2010, and Mr. Replogle’s petition opponent Joe Asch ‘79. Our findings were as follows:
A common theme from erstwhile College president Wright’s office, particularly during the height of the Lone Pine Revolution, was to belittle petition candidates as negative and divisive politicians. Supporters of Wright and the Alumni Council nominees, such as Jonathan Hancock ’06, called on petitioners to end their campaign of “stoking divisiveness and negativity at Dartmouth”.
After the most recent round of alumni elections, prominent Dartmouth leaders were just as quick to decry the negativity of the campaign. President Kim remarked that new rules should be adopted to calm the “acrid, negative [and] angry campaigning.” Martha Beattie ’76, President of Dartmouth Undying (a group supporting Alumni Council nominees) referred to the result, which strongly favored her slate of candidates, as a call by alumni to end “contentious elections.”
Despite alumni councilors and Dartmouth Undying bemoaning the negativity of the petitioners in the last election, the websites of the trustee candidates points to a different conclusion.
Mr. Asch: The website for Mr. Asch does not specifically target Mr. Replogle or reference the Dartmouth Undying slate. On his site, Mr. Asch frequently states his support for President Kim while also supporting fiscal prudence and a restoration of parity on the Board of Trustees. Some letters of support published on Mr. Asch’s site do make thinly veiled references to his opponents, but no outwardly negative attacks are made.
In total, Mr. Replogle’s name appears zero times on Mr. Asch’s site. Mr. Kondracke’s name likewise never appears. Mr. Asch’s site makes no reference to Dartmouth Undying or the Alumni Council nominees for other offices. (The only reference to the above parties comes in a letter linked to on the site in which Mr. Asch attempts to respond to the attack website “Joe VS Dartmouth”. Even in this letter, Mr. Asch does not critique either Mr. Replogle or Mr. Kondracke, only indicating that Mr. Kondracke urged audience members at a round table in Minneapolis to visit the “Joe VS Dartmouth”.)
Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke: The websites for Mr. Replogle and Mort Kondracke ’60 (who ran unopposed for the other open seat on the Board) are a different story. Mr. Replogle and Mr Kondracke published many letters that were openly critical of Mr. Asch, in addition to publishing independent critiques of Mr. Replogle’s opponent. A letter from Phil Kron, Gene Kron and Jim Adler calls Mr. Asch a micromanager, claims he is “ill equipped to serve on the Board of Trustees” in addition to mocking Mr. Asch for an letter supporting Mr. Replogle signed by several members of the Class of 1979.
In another letter published on the sites of Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke, Merle Adelman ’80, a former acting president of the Association of Alumni, accuses Mr. Asch of a “flip flop” on the alumni lawsuit blocking the Board’s 2007 expansion. Weighing in on the letter, Mr. Kondracke and Mr. Replogle intone that the letter proves “Asch will say whatever it takes to get himself elected.”
In total, Mr. Asch’s name appears 16 times on Mr. Replogles site, with a conservative estimate of eight instances where Mr. Asch is criticized or attacked. Mr. Asch’s name appears 15 times on Mr. Kondracke’s website, with a conservative estimate of seven instances where Mr. Asch is criticized or attacked. (This latter figure is particularly noteworthy considering that Mr. Kondracke faced no opposition in the campaign, from Mr. Asch or otherwise.)
Attacks From Without: Mr. Asch was also the subject of a particularly negative website entitled “Joe VS Dartmouth” which derided Mr. Asch’s qualifications and character. Typically this brand of attack site would not be considered a part of the Replogle-Kondracke campaign, except that the engineer of the site also built and maintained the campaign sites for Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke. Neither candidate explicitly condemned the site, either. In fact, Mr. Kondracke publicly directed traffic to the site on at least one occasion.
“Joe VS Dartmouth” advances several negative claims about Mr. Asch, including that Mr. Asch hid aspects of his business past (in reality, Mr. Asch had once mistakenly paid taxes to the U.S. instead of the French government, and the issue had been amicably resolved), that he opposes Pell Grants and federal support for needy students, and that he “denigrates” supporters of Dartmouth’s Greek system. The scant support for these claims is often taken wildly out of context or is overtly false.
The board at Little Green Blog makes no normative claims about negative campaigning in alumni elections -- that question is beyond the scope of this study. Instead, we hope to provide alumni with useful facts with which to analyze the 2010 alumni elections.
This analysis is not exhaustive. The staff at Little Green Blog could not include a comprehensive survey of all reported communications during the course of the campaign. (A cursory glance, however, points to more negativity from Mr. Asch's opponents, including the rather spurious and unsupported charge that Mr. Asch "has demonstrated racism on numerous occasions.")
That said, candidates' official websites can reveal the general timbre of their electoral efforts and allow for the most reliable analysis of the strategies employed by each campaign. Mr. Asch, whatever our personal assessments of his merits as a candidate, made a painstaking effort to put forth only a positive campaign message. As we showed, Mr. Asch did not critique his opponent or the Dartmouth Undying slate in his web communications. This strategy stands in stark contrast to the websites of Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke, which each mention Mr. Asch more than a dozen times, frequently criticizing him.
The campaigns of Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke seem more vociferously negative when we consider the campaign site “Joe VS Dartmouth” which was built and maintained by an active member of the Replogle-Kondracke team and publicly advertised by Mr. Kondracke. The entire site was dedicated to attacking Mr. Asch’s qualifications and character. The claims published on the site often relied on information drawn out of context or ad hominem attacks.
The directorate of Little Green Blog endorsed Mr. Asch’s campaign for the Board. This report’s primary author and publisher submitted an endorsement letter for Mr. Asch as well as other commentary on the election.
It would be easy to use this information to dismiss our findings. Readers would be remiss in doing so. We urge readers to visit the sites linked above and explore them. The numbers speak for themselves.
While our opinions of Mr. Ach moved us to support him in the election, we were not a part of his campaign and are not in close communication with him at the present time. The findings reported herein are based not on subjective evaluations but on factual content analysis of four websites frequented during the election. Final judgment of our methods of course rests with the reader.