Josh Mandel is spending a lot of time pretending that he is someone he is not.
The other day, we wrote about Mandel’s humorous sad effort to fake either a Southern or an Appalachian accent. (Actually, we don’t know exactly what he was doing, but it WAS weird and uncomfortable.) We acknowledged the long practice of politicians changing accents to fit the crowd – Bill Clinton was the master at this, shifting into his Arkansas twang whenever he visited the south, then sounding like a Yalie when he was up North.
The key point is: Clinton was actually from the South. He has some credibility. Mandel is a Northern Ohio kid.
Let’s give Mandel some credit. Maybe he was trying to sound like a “regular blue collar guy” and not a southerner. Does he have the credibility to pull that off? If you read Josh Mandel’s bio on his campaign website you’ll see this interesting statement down near the end:
He is the grandson of a blue collar laborer and a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran, who both instilled in him the principles of hard work, integrity and strong family values.
Now, we don’t know much about Mandel’s grandfather. So we have no reason to question the claim that he was a “blue collar laborer.”
But that doesn’t mean that Mandel grew up in a Blue Collar family. Josh’s immediate family members most certainly are not.
Josh’s Dad, Bruce Mandel, is a partner with law firm of Ulmer & Berne LLP.
Now, we don’t claim to be experts on large Ohio law firms. But we know this much: partners in large law firms make a lot of money. And they are certainly not working “blue collar jobs.”
Mandel’s father he serves as the “Chair of the Firm’s Toxic Tort Defense Group.” This means that he represents clients who have been sued due to alleged exposures to a variety of industrial chemicals, lead, silica, and asbestos-containing products. The firm describes the approach of the practice as follows:
Defenses to these claims include state-of-the-art arguments with respect to the allegedly defective condition of the product itself, and significant issues with respect to causation of the individual condition from which the claimant allegedly suffers
Translation: Mandel’s father and his team defend large companies against claims by “blue collar” employees who may have been exposed to toxic substances on the job, substances that may have resulted in terrible, life-changing, death-inducing side-effects like cancer, birth defects and major organ disease.
But it gets worse. Some of those allegedly injured by “toxic torts” are veterans – an ironic fact given how Mandel plays up his military service. In one exemplary case, Josh’s dad represented Viad Corporation. Viad is a successor to a company which manufactured evaporators used on naval vessels. As installed on those vessels, the evaporators, also known as desalinators or distillers, were encased in asbestos. Viad was sued by a serviceman who was in the Navy during World War II, serving on the Robert I. Paine, a destroyer escort, from 1943-46. The serviceman claimed that he was injured by his exposure to asbestos while on board that vessel. See Ferguson v. Lorillard Tobacco Co., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6599, 8-9 (N.D. Ohio Jan. 30, 2007).
(And, here is an interesting coincidence. While Mandel’s father was representing Viad, Viad was making significant donations to ALEC. ALEC , for those who don’t recall, is a conservative organization designed to allow state legislators to meet with corporate interests, including executives, lawyers, and lobbyists, to draft right wing “model legislation.”)
To be clear: We aren’t trying to criticize Mandel’s father or suggest he is doing anything wrong. He is honorably representing his clients and is not a public figure. To get some perspective, we spoke with one attorney friend who had some relevant experience:
“I worked for a number of years in a large law firm representing big companies. Both my grandfathers were union workers. They instilled blue collar values in me. I also know that those blue collar values would have involved kicking my ass if I ever represented a large corporation against claims by workers.”
The point is that Mandel has put his family “into play” by suggesting that he has the “blue collar” values of his grandfather. His immediate family, we respectfully suggest, is more relevant. And we know that his immediate family likely has made a lot of money defending large corporations against the claims of blue collar workers.
This suggests that Mandel lacks credibility when he tries to pretend he comes from a “blue collar” background.
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