Campaign Anomolies, II
- 18 November 2006 by Author 0 Comments
Campaign Anomolies, II
By Richard Larsen
Published, ISJ Weblog, 11/16/06
There are always some unsavory elements to the election season that remind us of our duties as an informed and vigilant electorate. Sometimes these elements are not promulgated by candidates but by political action groups. I’ll give you a couple of examples from the recent election.
The first was a mailer that was sent out by the Boise based group, Conservation Voters for Idaho Action Fund. Many of you may recall it, especially if it caught your attention the way it did mine. It was the mailing that on one side had a very complementary picture of a local candidate and on the flip side had a picture of a crying baby, with the caption at the top, naming a local incumbent, “… Has Let Us Down.” It then lists three issues deemed important in voting against the incumbent. It alleged that the legislator has “Endangered the health of our families by voting in favor of allowing more arsenic in our drinking water; Threatened the safety of our communities by trying to make it easier to build coal-fired power plants in Idaho, and Risked the quality of our air and water by refusing to provide more funding for responsible monitoring.”
To the credit of the political action committee that distributed this piece, they did cite the legislative bills related to each of these issues. Reason demands a more thorough examination of their theses, however. When we remove the illogical extrapolations from the phrases, I can’t honestly think of any sane or cognitive person, politician or otherwise, who would purposefully “endanger the health of our families,” “threaten the safety of our communities,” or “risk the quality of our air and water.” The reasoning is specious, at best! The latter is perhaps more subject to scrutiny as there are always trade-offs in cost effectiveness and variant means to a desirable end, and those lines of demarcation are always more subjective, hence, subject to debate. But for the others, there is no immediate necessary connection, philosophically, between their fallaciously extrapolated conclusions and the underlying reasons for their allegations.
Sometimes politics makes for strange bedfellows, and sometimes the extra help afforded a candidate through the advertising from a Political Action Committee (PAC) standpoint is desirous, but at what cost? Oftentimes, a candidate is only aware of the PAC’s endorsement while not aware of the specifics of what the organization is going to be sending out or promulgating over the airwaves. But ex post facto, everyone is aware of what is sent out, and it’s under these circumstances one would expect a scrupulous candidate to disavow the contents thereof. Culpability can be somewhat absolved when a PAC conducts the mailing, but absent a denunciation by the candidate, the tactics and message are by implication approved.
Which brings me to the second example. In Missouri, the “Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative” that narrowly passed, says nothing about allowing embryonic stem cell research, which was what Michael J. Fox’s controversial ad was promoting in behalf of Claire McCaskill. Believe it or not, it does make sense, because there is absolutely nothing that embryonic stem cell research can purportedly cure, which is why federal funding is being sought to support it. Almost all of the success from stem cell research has resulted from adult stem cells, not embryonic. That’s why all the venture capital in this area of research is flowing to adult cell research. The only way embryonic stem cell research can be funded is if the government is providing it. Even the Michael J. Fox Foundation has granted $1.7 million to adult stem cell research. Where does this indicate the cures are going to be found?
It makes you wonder why political advertising is not subject to the same regulations that commercial advertising is. The Federal Trade Commission regulates “Truth in Advertising” requirements of businesses soliciting sales. Why shouldn’t political advertising be held to the same level of scrutiny? And not just truth in advertising, how about “bate and switch.” When a company advertises a product, and we go to purchase it, they don’t have that one in stock, so they try to sell you something with greater profit margins built into the pricing, that’s bate and switch. Why shouldn’t we be able to hold politicians to the same standard? They “sell” themselves as conservatives, they end up being something else, and we’ve fallen for the old bate and switch scam. Well, come to think about it, I guess that’s what last week’s election may have been about.
I would submit that just because political advertising is not held to Federal Trade Commission standards doesn’t mean that we who comprise the electorate can’t hold it to the same level of scrutiny. Political advertising may all look nice and glossy, but our challenge is to get past the form, and focus on the substance.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.