S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, June 4, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.0604.ads.htm

Do your homework before going to the polls
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

JUNE 4 , 2006 - - Political television advertising is misleading by its very nature.

Candidates have to do a lot in 30 seconds: Introduce themselves, highlight a policy position or two, and make voters feel good about them so they'll vote for them. Because candidates have to cram all of that into a short ad, you can't really see their true nature and get the full picture about their positions and accomplishments.

For candidates, televised advertising is a great way to communicate because they can control their message, craft their image and reach a lot of voters.

If you're looking at the current crop of political advertising filling the airwaves in anticipation of the June 13 primaries, you might want to compare what politicians tell you with what really happened.

In the governor's race, GOP Gov. Mark Sanford offers a solid and slick series of ads that portray him as a leader who fights for change for taxpayers. As is the case with his popular ads from 2002, he still has a folksy style with shades of Hollywood glitz.

But the ads don't tell the whole story. In one called "Changing World," Sanford touts a record of creating more than 100,000 new jobs, among other things. In reality, the state has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the country, has lost 70,000 manufacturing jobs over five years and last year was considered last in job creation.


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Sanford's primary opponent, Dr. Oscar Lovelace, has what some political bloggers say is one of the better ads of the season. After introducing himself as a family doctor, he takes an obvious shot at Sanford by saying he will provide "hands-on leadership." But he doesn't provide many specifics beyond political platitudes.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater, has two ads running that say he'll be more effective than Sanford and he'll promote public education first. These ads show Moore talking directly to the camera and offer a little more detail than others. But they (obviously) don't include criticisms by some that Moore offers wrong positions on some core Democratic issues.

Meanwhile, Florence Mayor Frank Willis, also running for the Democratic nomination, offers an ad with action-oriented music that touts a Sanford-like message. The ad says Willis will fight the powers that be (i.e., state legislators) for changes people deserve. But critics contend the ad wrongly claims Willis cut crime in Florence while mayor.

Democratic candidate Dennis Aughtry doesn't have television ads.

In the lieutenant governor's race, ads tell a similar partial candidate stories.

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, for example, offers an ad with an energetic feel that matches what he wants people to think about him. But there's something a little disingenuous about the claim Bauer "single-handedly blocked over a billion and half dollars in new property taxes." Why? Because it's not that difficult for any lawmaker to introduce one bill for $1.5 billion or even $10 trillion in new taxes. And if the presiding officer of the Senate (the lieutenant governor) does something procedurally to kill it, then he can make the claim. Whether the bill ever had a chance is immaterial with such a claim.

Meanwhile, Bauer challenger Mike Campbell provides ads that readily let you know he is the son of the late Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. and a big friend of the Bush (as in two presidents) family. And while he and others say he'll do a good job, that's about all we really find out - that he "comes from good stock," as the first President Bush says.

Republican challenge Henry Jordan doesn't have an ad. Neither does Democratic candidate Robert Barber, but he doesn't need ads yet as he has no primary opposition.

Bottom line: Ads can give only a snapshot of a candidate - - and it's the snapshot a candidate wants you to remember and believe. But the ad doesn't make someone the best candidate.

If you really want to pick a candidate who you think will be the best leader or best represent your views, you should avoid television ads. Instead, read newspaper articles, listen to debates and take a look at candidates' Internet sites.

Andy Brack's new book of commentary, Bugging the Palmettos, is available for $15.00. Click here for more.

Recent commentary

lighter side

6/4: Fortune cookies

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

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5/28: Adding Brack's book to bookshelf

To the editor:

I read Andy Brack's book recently and placed it next to Michael Graham's "Banned From Public Radio" on my bookshelf. Though Brack and Graham approach SC politics from different political views they both get it right about the General Assembly in Columbia.

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Recent feedback

Ahead on closed meetings

A look at how you often learn first about things in SC Statehouse Report:

From Statehouse Report, 5/28/06:

"Keeping caucus meetings private is dangerous because it allows state lawmakers to have a secret place where they can have frank or heated discussions and crystallize their views "to a point just short of ceremonial acceptance," as one New York court case said. ... Just because caucus meetings have always been secret is no reason to keep them that way. When public officials meet, they should err on the side of sunshine, not smoke-filled rooms.


From the Spartanburg Herald Journal, 5/31/06

"The more secrecy the lawmakers adopt, the more suspicion they will generate in the people. When they meet behind closed doors, they give voters and taxpayers reason to think they are dealing dishonestly and trying to pull something over on the people. They are eroding confidence in themselves."

Similar edit:


Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political news items from the past week:

Thumbs up

Meetze. Hats off to Senate Chaplain George E. Meetze who, even after 56-plus years in the job, can command his audience with strong messages. He is retiring after this session at age 96, and the Senate honored him with oratory and a commendation to be signed by all present and past senators with whom he served. The senators also did something unusual: They recessed for 15 minutes that dragged on to 35 or more to attend a reception in the cloakroom for Dr. Meetze.

Service. Many thanks to state Reps. John Graham Altman, R-Charleston, and Ronny Townsend, R-Anderson, among those who will retire from legislative service this year. Townsend leaves after 22 years, with a teary farewell. While we often did not agree with Altman, he leaves after a decade with a farewell full of the stridency by which he known in his podium well speeches.

Thumbs down

Secrets. A coal in stockings for Santee Cooper, the Republican House caucus, to new legislative caucuses. , and the conference committee on the budget. They all get this Thumbs Down for attempting to do public business in secret. No to secret audits. No to closed door caucuses to make decisions, if not take votes. And No to . You were elected or appointed to do public business in the public eye. If you can't stand the heat … either you should voluntarily pledge not to do so again or the voters ought to kick you out of the kitchen.

A little late. What was the point? The Anderson Independent's editorial page published an editorial opposing the sales tax shift for school operating expenses statewide, on the day before adjournment, when the deal was already done. Please, just collect that edition and take it to the solid waste authority instead of allowing it to blow in the wind.

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Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

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