North Bergen mayoral hopeful Larry Wainstein and some of his allies were attacked in a Mayor Nick Sacco campaign ad that received widespread attention, but attorney Mario Blanch did not find “The Shady Bunch” video amusing and he is now suing Sacco and his campaign over it.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
In a lawsuit filed in Bergen County Superior Court today by Valerie Steiner, Blanch, through his attorney, contends that he “is named in the advertising as a thief, ex-convict and criminal,” as well as a being labeled as a “serial tax evader.”
Furthermore, Steiner writes in the suit that the statements in the ad against Blanch “are made with malice as they know or should know that plaintiff is not a criminal, thief, ex-convict or a ‘serial tax evader’.”
As a result, Blanch alleges that he has been labeled with “defamatory” names that are “ruining his reputation.”
In the ad, a line about Blanch sings “Mario owes thousands in backs taxes,” with the accompanying text “$200,000 in back taxes” over a picture of him.
In April 2013, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-32), a strong Sacco supporter, called Blanch “a serial tax evader” for owing nearly $200,000 in back taxes (per NJ.com).
Speaking with Hudson County View over the phone, Blanch was adamant that the ad, which became publicly available on Sacco’s YouTube page on Wednesday (and has about 2,800 views), has already caused repercussions with his law practice.
“They’re trying to destroy my reputation as an attorney. I’ve had clients calling me asking If I’ve been accused of crimes … this whole thing is ridiculous. They’re ruining my reputation.”
According to the suit, Blanch is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, “interests, costs of suit, and other such relief as deemed to just be equitable by the Court.”
Furthermore, Blanch said he was surprised that the Shady Bunch ad, a parody of the unmistakable Brady Bunch theme song, is getting so much positive feedback, since it’s a “ripoff” of a September 2009 Republican ad attacking the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and President Barack Obama.
“This is a ripoff of another campaign, this is not original work. [Paul] Swibinski is out there acting as if he’s some kind of media mogul, when all he did is copy someone else’s work. This is an exact ripoff – Paul Swibinski had no originality whatsoever.”
Paul and Phil Swibinski, as well as their public relations firm – Vision Media – are named in the suit, and Paul Swibinski says they “completely disagree” with Blanch’s assertions.
“We have not been officially notified of anything and we completely disagree with the assertions that Mario Blanch is making,” he said in an email. “We see no reason to make any further comment at this time.”
Blanch is representing Luis Gutierrez, Wainstein’s campaign manager, in a voter fraud suit against dozens of Sacco supporters, though a judge denied injunctive relief in the case on Wednesday.
The Sacco team said the lawsuit “failed,” while the Wainstein camp essentially called it a moral victory, since although injunctive relief was denied, the Hudson County Board of Elections will have six state troopers overseeing the municipal elections in North Bergen and West New York on May 12.
Judge for yourself if the two “Shady Bunch” ads are really that similar or not:
The Shady Bunch 2009 Ad
The Shady Bunch 2015 Ad