We are at that point in the election season when things start to turn ugly. The presidential campaign is example No. 1 where negative ads fill the airways, but it's not stopping there.
Candidates for state office in Pennsylvania also are in the bull's eye.
And it is bad enough when the mudslinging comes from within our state borders, worse when groups outside the commonwealth, who clearly know nothing about the candidates, get involved.
That is the case with an ad paid for by the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee that began running last week. The group paid more than a half-million dollars for the TV spot that said Democratic attorney general candidate Kathleen Kane is "soft" on rape.
One of the cases it highlights involves a rapist who later went on to assault others. The ad says Kane was involved in the "weak plea deal" that came out of the case.
Soon after the ad began running, the father of the rape victim discussed in the ad angrily pointed out that the accusation about Kane was not true and Lackawanna County District Attorney Andrew Jarbola released a statement that Kane had no role in the prosecution of that case.
The RSLC said it would change the ad but the inaccurate version continued to run all last weekend in the Philadelphia market.
The group's actions are distasteful. But one of the most frustrating points of this incident is that what the RSLC is doing is legal.
It, and any other big-money group, can waltz into Pennsylvania and spend gobs of money to try to sway the outcome of our elections.
It isn't alone. Other conservative and liberal-leaning groups have tried to impact elections as well.
It creates another reason we all should rail against the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling that says corporations and unions can be treated like people and make unlimited independent expenditures to try to influence elections.
Although the ruling targeted federal elections, the Pennsylvania Department of State says it means that corporate spending on Pennsylvania races is now legal as long as the businesses don't contribute directly to a candidate's election committee or PAC.
This is a change from before Citizens United when corporations couldn't directly use money to influence elections.
The other part of this equation is the role candidates should play when they are confronted with a third-party ad that is unfair or inaccurate toward an opponent.
Republican Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, who is running against Kane, is an honorable person and a prosecutor who stands out in our state, but his statement that campaigns and outside groups should "conduct themselves in an honest and ethical manner" doesn't go far enough to rebuke the RSLC for spreading false accusations.
We are not naive enough to believe negative campaigning and mudslinging will end anytime soon. We do believe, however, that outside groups have no place spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to sway a Pennsylvania election - even if what they do is now legal.
- The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News