Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Finding Who Was Behind Mystery Ad

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Finding Who Was Behind Mystery Ad

Article excerpt

Sixteen months later, a political mystery has been solved. Now we know who really bought a half-page newspaper ad attacking Venice City Council candidates Marshall Happer and Sue Lang during their 2010 races.

The ad ran in the Venice Gondolier newspaper three days before the election.

It called Happer "Bad for the city, bad for business, and bad for our citizens." Among other rhetoric, it also said, "Sue 'Sunshine Suit' Lang has wasted MILLIONS from the public coffer on lawyers, consultants, and legal penalties with her 'bring it on' attitude and she shows no signs of stopping."

At the bottom, the small-print disclaimer that must accompany all political advertisements identified the sponsor as "Concerned Citizens for a Return to Reason."

The timing of the ad's placement, 30 minutes before the deadline for the newspaper's weekend edition, made it impossible for Happer or Lang to respond.

The ad may or may not have influenced voters, but both candidates lost their elections, and Happer set out to determine who was behind the attack.

He soon discovered it was not Concerned Citizens for a Return to Reason, because there is no such organization registered with local or state elections offices, as required by rule.

It wasn't until Happer filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission that the Gondolier revealed the ad's buyer as Donald "Marty" Kretchman, then general manager of Suncoast Aviation Center at the Venice Airport.

Then, at least, the motives fell into place. Both Happer and Lang had opposed expansion of the airport and the aviation center's application for additional hangars.

Kretchman insists he was a lone gunman. He says he paid $718 in cash from his own pocket. That's no problem.

The problem arose when the ad appeared with a non-existent sponsor, making it appear that a groundswell of grassroots opposition to Happer and Lang had arisen in town. …

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