The Daily Herald ran a story today (finally) investigating the claims of Dan Seals that he is a "current" adjunct professor at Northwestern University. As regular TA readers know well, this space has been extremely critical of Seals' claims since last October that he is a "current" adjunct professor.
As the article sets up the issue, "In the 10th Congressional District's Democratic primary campaign, candidate Dan Seals of Wilmette has touted his position as an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. But he doesn't start that job until April. Are these guys [Seals and other candidates mentioned in the article] stretching the truth? Or are they outright lying?"
The issue is not only whether teaching a single night school class qualifies one to call one's self a "professor" (even an adjunct), but much more importantly, whether a prospective intention to teach at a school some many months down the road is something that a candidate for federal office should be claiming as a "current" credential, more than six months before he actually gains the teaching experience that he is seeking to leverage as a campaign selling point. For the whole backstory, see here and here.
The Herald article gives an analysis by Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois' Springfield campus, and John Jackson, a political scientist and visiting professor at Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Institute (two REAL professors).
In the article, Professor Redfield said flagrant misstatements or resume-puffing can be costly to candidates at the ballot box. He said voters are more likely to look in that direction than toward candidates' positions on the issues. "They understand about people telling the truth," Redfield said of voters. "If it turns out you fudged on some things, that becomes the issue."
As to the investigation of Seals' claims specifically, the article finds:
Seals, running against 42-year-old Jay Footlik of Buffalo Grove in the 10th Congressional District, at one time said he was an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. But Seals doesn't begin his position as a part-time School of Continuing Studies lecturer until April, a Northwestern spokesman said.
Shrugging it off as a miscue, Seals has started calling himself a lecturer in public forums, though as of Tuesday afternoon, his Web site still listed him as an adjunct professor. "What it might show is I don't know what the proper terms are," said Seals, 36. "The idea that I'm trying to mislead or be deceitful is baseless."
Jackson said the difference between a lecturer and visiting professor isn't great, but Seals should have known better considering this is his second run for Congress. He added Seals should have been clearer about when his employment began at Northwestern.
So, as TA has stated for some months now, the issue ought to be before the voters as to whether Seals' claim gives them pause as to Seals' veracity and character. And, if Seals is making these kind of "miscues" during the campaign, what does that say about his capacity to hold high public office?
Simply shrugging off the issue may work for the primary, if Seals can hold on to his apparent lead. But even if the voters don't catch on in time to give Seals serious heartburn in the primary election, there are many months before the general election to give everyone a chance to really reflect on this issue and what it says about Dan Seals as a candidate.
Professor Jackson sums up the issue pretty well in the article: while all politicians exaggerate, they must be careful not to cross a line in campaign materials, interviews or at public events.
"It's a job application," Jackson said. "And you're not supposed to lie on your job application about what your credentials are."
NEWS UPDATE: Bad News Seems to Come Daily for Terry Link: Today, a News-Sun columnist picks up on Lake County GOP Chairman Dan "The Bulldog" Venturi's call to the Illinois State Board of Elections to investigate the reason why State Senator Terry Link's campaign disclosures did not include payments to some individuals who were identified as having been paid for collecting signatures. Read the recent GOP press release here.
UPDATED 01.30.08: More Mainstream Media Attention on Professor-gate: Today, as pointed out by one of our commentors, the Pioneer Press picked up on the Seals "professor" claim. Read all about it here.
After we challenged the MSM last week to pick up this story (which we first discussed even prior to January 5th), the prize for breaking the story goes to the Daily Herald, as noted above, but we commend Pioneer for also running with the story and we note that Pioneer is a weekly, not a daily. Pioneer also took a cue from the JTA Blog, which TA noted a while back had posted a story on Jan. 16th with statements from Jay Footlik's campaign on the issue, and Pioneer also interviewed Footlik's campaign manager for a statement.
Speaking of the Herald, there was also a Letter to the Editor in today's edition that picked up on the professor scandal. Read the letter here.