CLEVELAND -- I recently returned from a glorious week of vacation and was met with an unwelcome surprise.
I'd been recruited as a messenger for the Ohio Republican Party.
An excerpt of one of my previous 2010 stories about Cuyahoga County Ed FitzGerald had been "borrowed" by Ohio's Republicans in a video web ad bashing Cuyahoga County Executive and expected Democratic Governor candidate Ed FitzGerald.
I was never asked for permission. I was not even informed of my cameo role.
For that lapse of courtesy, a Republican spokesman apologized.
On www.PublicOfficial14.com, a video uses my narrative to describe how then-County Executive candidate FitzGerald was running as a corruption-fighting Mr. Clean candidate.
I said disclosure of his bit player role in the Jimmy Dimora corruption scandal "won't help him."
When the original story was delivered, I was on camera standing in front of the County Administration Building for a news story.
In the Public Offical 14 website commercial, my unidentified voice accompanies a silhouette of FitzGerald projected over legal paperwork about Public Official 14.
There is no obvious disclaimer that the ad's soundtrack came from a Channel 3 newscast.
To refresh, as Lakewood Mayor, FitzGerald took a wiretapped phone call from then-Democratic Chairman and County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.
Dimora wanted FitzGerald to meet with William Neiheiser. Neiheiser was bucking for a contract to run the Lakewood Ice Rink, which he eventually got.
Neiheiser later made a contribution to FitzGerald which FitzGerald later returned. Neiheiser was eventually charged and convicted in the Cuyahoga County corruption probe for other issues not related to FitzGerald.
FitzGerald denied any wrongdoing. He said he just took a phone call from a party and public official.
Ohio's GOP Executive Director Matt Borges said, " It allows us to use a publicly aired news account of what happened to point out Ed FitzGerald is in fact Public Official 14 and did a favor for Jimmy Dimora involving someone who is now in prison."
The Justice Department made an extraordinary statement clearing FitzGerald of being a corruption target probe.
Republicans are connecting the dots in a way to suggest FitzGerald's part of the county's dirty old political past.
But their tactic of blurring newscasts and political propaganda is part of a dirty new political present.
More and more political ads are "borrowing" from newscasts mixing journalist's credibility with campaign messages.
Many viewers and voters are increasingly turned off by political ads. They think they are dishonest or biased, which they often are.
They may think that of some journalists too. But even in this new media world where fact and opinion overlap, most of us strive to be fair, honest and accurate.
And we don't want do be burdened with the extra baggage of being perceived as political shills.
We want to cover not make news and view "borrowing" newscasts as raising ethical questions.
Tom Brokaw was upset when an old NBC Nightly newscast turned up in a Mitt Romney ad targeting Newt Gingrich.
"I don't like it...It's so hard to stay in what I call the umpire mode," he said.
Fair usage law does allow political commercials to incorporate newscast excerpts as long as they are not being used to make money.
Late Wednesday afternoon, a Republican spokesman told me the party plans to voluntarily take down the video.
Gannett, the corporation that owns Channel 3, was preparing to request that.
Perhaps Republicans decided to avoid a needlessly controversial story, even if most would see it as "inside baseball."
But a story would likely have driven more eyeballs to the website to see what the flap was about.
They will replace the video with more shots at FitzGerald.
So just to clarify if need be, I am not working for the Republicans,Democrats, Governor John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald.
I'm working for you.