Saturday, November 1, 2008

"The Baddies": Award-Winning Local Political Ads

We've all gotten used to seeing television and radio ads stretch the truth, misstate the facts, make personal attacks, exagerrate results, attempt to stir up fear, etc. Indeed, it's hard to see or hear many ads today that DON'T DO at least one of those things.

So in this environment, it's hard to run an ad that sticks out for truly crossing new lines of distaste, or chutzpah.

But three local political ads have managed to do just that, truly taking the cake. When this campaign season is over, and everyone can catch their breath, hopefully people will see just how nuts things have gotten:

1. OUTRAGEOUS CLAIM AWARD: Tell voters your opponent is packing her bags and moving to Africa! This is not a joke:

Congresswoman Jean Schmidt is suggesting to voters that her opponent, Victoria Wulsin, by agreeing to an honorary title with a university in Kenya, plans on relocating to Kenya after losing her election on November 4. As the ad watch from the Enquirer (which endorsed Jean Schmidt, by the way) makes clear, the premise of the ad is utterly ridiculous:

2. LEAST CREDIBLE REFERENCE AWARD: Use anonymous blog commentary as a credible attack on a candidate.

Usually, an ad will look for a credible source to cite when criticizing an opponent--newspaper quotes from a reocognized newspaper, or an identified person who people trust. Well, one local ad has recently taken us to a new threshold: anonymous online postings!

Candidate for County Clerk of Courts Patty Clancy has taken anonymous quotes from to tag her opponent, Martha Good, who also teaches at Miami, as disorganized. You can see the ad here:

Let's hope this new trend in flimsy sourcing ends November 4, but something tells me it won't.

3. CHUTZPAH AWARD: Take the most disastrous decision in years and turn it into a positive(!) campaign talking point.

I know of no one at the County who still believes that Phil Heimlich's decision to spend about $10 million straight out of the County's reserve fund to rent jailspace at Butler County was a good idea. Indeed, most of us (and folks from both parties) know it was a disastrous idea in so many ways--it squandered our rainy day fund (which could have helped tremendously now that it's raining), it guaranteed 300 beds per day in Butler County (so we were paying even it beds were empty, which ended up happening), and no permanent source of funds was proposed to support this ongoing commitment, so it ultimately ended in 2007 without ever having made any permanent improvement to our criminal justice system. All told, the County blew through $10M, and had no more jailspace or helpful alternatives in place to show for it afterward.

The best evidence of the collective conclusion that Butler County was a costly failure is that after Issue 27 failed, and there was no identified source to pay for Butler County, even those who had supported it initially quietly agreed when we ended the contract. Not a peep from anyone, or any proposals for how to "save" it--because no viable way existed.

In hindsight, if Butler County had never happened, while we'd been slogging through a tough budget right now, we'd be nowhere near the budget crisis we face because our reserves would be far healthier.

All this being said, I nearly swerved off the road when I heard my colleague Pat DeWine's radio advertisement for judge where it touts as an accomplishment that he added jailspace without raising taxes! This is literally taking the disastrous Butler County decision and claiming it as a good thing, as something to be proud of. True chutzpah, when it was a decision that has led to such a financial calamity, with no real improvement in our corrections situation.

And, ironically, it's ultimately untrue, because when two attempts to actually pay for the commitment through tax increases failed (the 2006 Heimlich/DeWine(!) tax increase, and the broader Issue 27 public safety plan in 2007 which included Butler County temporarily), and there was no way to pay for the ongoing commitment, the temporarily added jailspace vanished.

Like I said, real chutzpah.

Let me know if you have other ads you'd like considered for awards . . .


Anonymous said...

Very good picks.

Anonymous said...

If DeWine wins the judicial race, his new colleagues will have his Butler County decision (the one he's now bragging about) to thank for all the cuts they're gonna have to make to staff.

Anonymous said...

What a shocker - Pepper picks the ads of three Republicans.

Want some REAL chutzpah? How about Todd Portune's billboards declaring "Two balanced budgets - No new taxes"?????? Isn't the County Commission REQUIRED by law to pass a balanced budget? And isn't it true that there are no new taxes only because Todd's sales tax increase was rejected by the voters?

Furtermore, It takes a lot of chutzpah to lampoon the Butler County jail contract when you yourself voted to continue its funding.

David Pepper said...


I'm happy to post comments regarding ads of either party. I did find the ones I highlighted to be particularly over the top, whoever aired them.

It's true we kept Butler County going through the Issue 27 election (remember that the opponents of Issue 27 accused us of engaging in campaign/scare tactics whenever it was suggested the Butler County deal might be terminated before the election). Once the election made clear there would be no additional funding to keep it going, we ended it (and all those who had said there was a way to keep it going just seemed to vanish, with no ideas of how to do so coming forward).

Heimlich's initial commitment was the calamity, leaving those of us who followed him holding the bag. With 300 prisoners up there, extending the deal several months pending the election's outcome was an attempt to make the best of a bad situation. Unfortunately, there weren't any good options.

And to underscore the initial point of the post, you will never hear me run an ad touting it as a good thing. And you won't see me commit this County to deals in the future that are mere band-aids, and not real solutions.

Sir Sheriff Lock Em Up said...

David, would this be the Butler County contract that you voted for after joining the Commission and Portune voted for every time? Enough of Portune's bad leadership, vote Ed Rothenberg for County Commissioner.

Jason Gloyd said...

The Real Chutzpah Award should go to your counterpart Mr. Portune who has billboards that claim Two Balanced Budgets (state required to do so) and No New Taxes (only because concerned citizens gathered 56,000 signatures to stop it.)

I agree with the Jean Schmidt one though!

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