News - Under seige

Campbell 'goes to the mattresses'

As those who manipulate public opinion know, how and where we obtain our information often shapes our opinion. Case in point: If you listen to V103-FM host Frank Ski or Hot 97-FM host Ryan Cameron, you're likely to have a very different opinion of Mayor Bill Campbell than if you gain your information from WSB's Neal Boortz or WGST's Kim Peterson.
Last week, after Mayor Campbell pleaded to end the rumor and innuendo surrounding leaks in an ongoing federal investigation into several city departments, other individuals and himself, it was as if Atlantans were living on two different planets. On one planet we had a mayor under fire, claiming a campaign of character driven by overzealous prosecutors was tearing him down with unwarranted accusations and character assassination. On the other planet we had his accusers, who not only claimed to be on the hunt for wrongdoing, but who also charge the mayor with fanning the flames of racial politics.
Likewise if you were to pick up a copy of the only daily in town, you would find a litany of anti-Campbell opining. And not just from the normal Campbell nemeses, Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker or features columnist Colin Campbell. Even headline writers and reporters seemed to go out of their way to target the mayor.
Under the headline "Attorneys say probes have high standards," a reporter cited former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley, a Republican appointed by George Bush, as a lead source. Whitley is no friend of Campbell's.
Another headline blared above the fold of the metro section Sunday "Campbell's hostility worries Atlanta business community." If you read beyond the headline, you'd find a longtime Campbell foe, Charlie Loudermilk, leading the charge — and that the headline had no basis, since most business leaders refused to discuss the probe. Couched in the third paragraph of the story, the reporter noted that "everyone in the business community says Campbell must be considered innocent until proven otherwise."
Let's go back to what is sometimes forgotten in this probe: The mayor's revocation of a liquor license held by strip-club owner Michael Childs, currently under indictment by a federal grand jury, accused of paying someone to torch competitors' clubs. Childs has also been taped offering $20,000 to have Campbell physically harmed for revoking the license for Childs' Club Nikki. (At the time, Campbell reported to Fulton DA Paul Howard that allegations were surfacing concerning bribery.) Campbell's aide Dewey Clark resigned to go work with Childs when his efforts to persuade the mayor to leave Childs alone proved futile.
You would think the feds would have been more interested in seeking to deal with the mayor's allegation about bribes. But no. Instead, on the testimony of an indicted businessman and a disgruntled former aide, the feds started investigating Campbell, his friends, his campaign contributors and virtually all departments in city government.
Something is out of whack here, and it's not the mayor yapping about an investigation with no rational boundaries. Astonishingly the probe has taken the feds to Campbell's clothier and even his gambling habits. On top of everything, someone over at the Russell Federal Building is selectively leaking titillating tidbits to selective reporters.
I know Bill Campbell and I know the pain he is going through. I'll go on record here and now: The mayor will be vindicated. I just hope the same can be said of those conducting the investigation, and of some who distort it.

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