The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

September 20, 2006

Hall denies challenger's allegations

By JANELLE STECKLEIN

A candidate running for U.S. Congress has alleged that longtime incumbent Congressman Ralph Hall has been paid to cover up child prostitution and forced abortions — a charge which Hall vigorously denies.

Glenn Melancon, D-Sherman, also accuses Hall of publicly attacking a rape victim.

A postcard being distributed by the Melancon campaign reads: “When investigators discovered child prostitution and forced abortions on the Mariana Islands, Congressman Ralph Hall was paid for covering it up and publicly attacking one of the raped children.”

The postcard then directs people to view a Web site that repeats the allegations with more detail.

The Mariana Islands, which are a commonwealth of the United States, are located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the Phililpines.

Hall, who has served the 4th district in Congress since 1980, called the attack “pitiful” and said he’s never publicly attacked one of the raped children.

“I feel storry for anyone who wants to be elected bad enough to defile someone’s character,” he said. “That’s an outright lie.”

Melancon says all the allegations are completely true.

“If it weren’t true, then we wouldn’t be saying it,” he said.

Both Melancon and his campaign manager, David Marlett, however, said the postcard is not a personal attack on Hall’s character.

“We’re not attacking him personally,” Marlett said, “We are attacking his policy decisions. We never intended to run a negative campaign.”

Marlett said he’s sad and embarrassed by Hall’s actions.

“We actually come into this with a heavy heart,” he said. “We weren’t hoping for this, we weren’t looking for it. It’s sad, and it’s gross. It’s embarassing.”

Hall says the Web site, which Melancon’s campaign said it backs, alleges that Hall has known that forced abortions, sex slavery, and sweatshops existed for years in the Mariana’s Islands, but never did anything.

Hall says yes he visited the islands 10 years ago, but he did not visit the islands in order to examine prostitution or other state rights. He went there at a request from various high-ranking members of the U.S. government regarding government strategy in the Pacific Rim region. He said he toured some factories and had a meeting with the governor.

“I have never been in one of the bordellos,” he said. “I had my wife with me (during the trip).”

He also says the Web site does not tell the whole story. He said in several speeches cited on the site, parts of the speeches he gave have been removed, and not in his favor.

“Anyone who knows me and knows my record, knows these allegations are untrue.”

Melancon has also alleged that Hall has accepted dirty campaign contributions from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who faces charges of conspiracy and money laundering, and Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in January to charges stemming from a public corruption investigation.

Hall said DeLay gave him money 10 years ago — a period of time when DeLay’s campaign contributions have not been questioned. Hall also cautioned that DeLay has still not been tried on the counts.

Hall also said he’s never met Abramoff and wouldn’t recognize him if he saw him.

Negative campaigning isn’t anything new, said Paul Lenchner, a professor of political science at Texas A&M-Commerce.;

“It’s widely used because people believe it works,” he said. “It’s a way to get people’s attention. And it’s a way also to try to reach people who are very cynical about politics.”

Lenchner, who said he would not comment on Melancon’s allegations because he’s not familiar with them, said any statement, whether it is true or not, attacking another person, is considered negative campaigning.

Negative campaigning can be dangerous to both the person being attacked and the person doing the attacking, he said.

“If the charges aren’t true, they can come back to bite whoever made them,” Lenchner said. “But, if the charges are made repeatedly and effectively, they can really hurt a candidate even if they are not true. Negative campaigning can also lower voter turn-out in elections.”