Dirty political ads stand in way of issues

Published 12:01 am Sunday, November 4, 2007

The video clip is downright creepy. The camera pans to the right, crossing a tombstone inscribed with “Mr. Taxpayer.”

A weasely voice asks, “Why did Jamie Franks vote twice to support the death tax?”

The camera then cuts to a swarthy looking guy wearing a black suit. He’s standing in what appears to be a cemetery as he answers his own question.

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“Because you can’t complain, when you’re dead,” the man says gesturing to the ground.

Then Mr. Creepy rails about the “death tax” and accuses the Democratic candidate for Mississippi Lieutenant Governor of voting down an economic development bill, blocking millions of dollars that “could have created thousands of jobs for the Gulf Coast.”

As the character speaks the screen fills with two photographs apparently taken after Hurricane Katrina.

“Vote ‘no’ on Jamie Franks, before it’s too late.”

Sounds awful, doesn’t it.

What kind of a dirty rotten scoundrel would vote down aid to the coast, you might ask?

Well, that’s where it gets interesting.

The fine print on the TV ad refers to a 2004 newspaper article as the “source” on the economic development issue.

Interestingly, in case you missed that, Hurricane Katrina occurred in 2005.

Hmm, so Mr. Creepy fibs a little, — or at least misleads —in addition to clomping through a cemetery. While the ad’s message may be factually truthful, it implies things that aren’t true.

It implies that Franks knowingly held money back from Hurricane Katrina victims. That’s a ridiculous notion after you consider that it was nearly a year later when Katrina struck.

Franks’ opponent, Republican Phil Bryant, the state’s current state auditor, can distance himself from the issue. You often see such attack ads, but they rarely have the name of the challenger attached.

In this case, the ad was credited to: Paid for by the Republican State Leadership Committee Mississippi PAC.

Such near deception is commonplace as Tuesday’s election nears.

But it’s always burned me up.

Jamie Franks came by our office this week as he toured through this part of the state.

He didn’t appear to have horns coming out of his head, as such negative attack ads might indicate. And he didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would tax me when I’m dead.

But such shenanigans aren’t unique to the lieutenant governor’s race.

The race for central district transportation commissioner has been peppered with accusations about the incumbent’s wasteful spending — allegedly buying a helicopter for his own use.

In another ad, Commissioner Dick Hall flat denies the copter caper.

Ads on behalf of Attorney General Jim Hood poke fun at his challenger’s record as being a lawyer that “only handled pig and cow cases.”

The crap the candidates spew on TV — and that’s exactly what most of it is — is shameful.

But we don’t need a guy in a cheap, black suit slinking through a cemetery to tell us that.

Perhaps the other truly amazing statistic is the amount of money candidates raise in an effort to win an office. In the lieutenant governor’s race alone, the pair of challengers reportedly has raised a combined $3.2 million — for a position that pays $60,000 in annual salary. That boggles my mind.

Imagine what $3.2 million could do for the state’s improvement?

It’s time we bury this kind of campaigning and get to discussing real issues, rather than trying to spin a tiny truth into a huge issue with a massive price tag.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.