In the Media:

Dishonest Attack Ads Aren't Worth Watching
10/28/04 - Denver Post

Denver Post Editorial

Infuriating advertisements from third-party groups, including the so-called 527 organizations, test voters' patience. Our advice is to tune them out.

And they say Job had patience? That's probably because the biblical figure lacked a television set bombarding his family with an incessant stream of smarmy political ads.

There might be a nugget of truth hidden inside one of these attack ads, but maybe not - we can't really tell because it's impossible to sort through all the ridiculous allegations.

Our advice: discount the attack ads and find a more reliable way to weigh the candidates and the issues.

Near the end of a notably rancorous campaign season, the withdrawal of official ads from George W. Bush and John Kerry in Colorado has cleared the decks for what Aaron Harber, head of the Truth in Political Advertising project , calls "the really nasty stuff" from the Republican and Democratic national committees.

Case in point: The RNC's "Who Knows?" ad that features Kerry's likeness against a red background with a hushed, conspiratorial-sounding voice-over that questions his ability to deal with terrorism. The implication of the red background is that Kerry's "a communist," Harber said. Liberal? Of course. But we'd never confuse Kerry with Karl Marx.

On the other side of the fence, the DNC is running a scare ad that suggests Bush's plans for Social Security threaten the benefits of current retirees.

Harber says that ads, not linked directly to candidates' campaigns, have "gotten really vicious. They're pretty much character assassination without basis in fact, or an intentional warping of the facts."

Harber said third-party ads - either by political parties or 527 groups - have exploded, with an estimated 14,000 to 15,000 groups formed just for the current election cycle. "There's just very little accountability," he said.

Locally, an example was the "Polluter Pete" ad by the League of Conservation Voters that attacked Senate candidate Pete Coors. "The idea that Coors' company has any type of intentional policy to do these things mischaracterizes Coors as a company," Harber said.

One of "the most dishonest" ads was from Americans for Job Security, which was a "slur against (Ken) Salazar" riddled with inaccuracies regarding the Summitville environmental disaster.

Our prize for the most infuriating local ads goes to advocates and opponents of Amendment 34, a proposal for a constitutional ban against limiting how much money property owners can recover from companies found responsible for construction defects.

An ad by proponents uses a common vulgarism and portrays builders as fat cats pouring wheelbarrows full of money into an SUV, barely touching on the issue at hand: A law passed in 2003 may favor construction professionals to the detriment of property owners in lawsuits.

The "No on 34" faction more than holds its odious own with an ad meant to frighten homeowners with the specter of being sued long after they sell their homes. The group outdid itself with a "one-man suing machine" ad demonizing lawyer Scott Sullan, one of the amendment's financial backers.

This cacophony of scare ads clouds the 2004 campaign with distortions and raw emotion. Voters would be much better served by honest information and sound reasoning. Cue the really scary music.

(C) 2004 by the Denver Post. All rights reserved.


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