Friday, November 17, 2006

Politcal Ads Too Negative? How About A Law?

The Courant reports that Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, is calling for a law to regulate what he calls the most negative campaign season in history.

Williams would create a citizens review panel to consider complaints of unfair advertising and determine if candidates were in compliance with the code of conduct.

In cases involving candidates participating in public financing, the panel could withhold funding from offenders or allow extra funding for those victimized.

The panel could pressure candidates not involved in public financing by offering a public, nonpartisan judgment on the accuracy or fairness of advertising, he said.

"Campaigns should be opportunities to inform, not mislead," Williams said. "Voters are interested in issues, not insults."

He declined to identify any campaign that he found offensive, but he said the recently concluded season was the most negative in state history.
(source: The Courant)
Trying to regulate speech is always a dicey proposition. As Nancy Dinardo pointed out later in the article, one person't lie is another person's spin. If law makers really wanted to address the negativity in campaining they would work on ways to get the money out of advertising, and into real substantive debate about ideas and issues.

If the FCC grants a license to tv and radio stations and has some requirement about broadcasting for the public good, why aren't our lawmakers exploring ways to provide time for political advertising as part of public air time? And why not look into reducing the window that political speech can be aired on tv and radio? But maybe the biggest scourge is the ubiquitous lawn sign, not the ones that dot laws of residences, but the ones that show up on public space and stay long past the elections they serve?

If negative advertising exists to "inform voters" how about combating the distortions with greater transparency to what our legislators are actually doing. Why don't we have attendance records of meetings easily available to the public (online), or records of PACS or lobbyist donations linked to the bills that are voted on by legislator? There are many ways to curb misinformation, discuss away.

The Courant, A Call For Action On Political Ads, by MARK PAZNIOKAS 11/1706

27 comments:

disgruntled_republican said...

Good post Turfgrrl. I agree with Williams on his chief complaint of deceptive advertising. And it happens on both sides.

I do however think it is wrong to try to control free speech which advertising is a form of. It would be great if votes were more easy to find for the non-political junkie and further, a dumbed down version of what the vote was on.

There are many other things that can be done to accomplish what he seeks to curtail without treading on free speech. I hope debate will bring that to light.

Anonymous said...

This is absurd - An attempt by Sen. Williams to violate free political speech and avoid accountability for bad votes. This is issue research where all the nutty D proposals and votes get brought up by challengers, complete with citations as to the bill number, and these ads are misleading? Give me a break. And how, exactly, did Dave Zoni pay for his mailer with the molested child image? My guess is Don Williams and his leadership PAC dumped a few bucks into that race. Get off your high horse, Don.

Shadow said...

All excellent points, Turfgrrl, and all of them would be better ideas than the one being proposed.

That's not to say this law is a bad idea; it's just that the devil's in the details. Who will be on this panel, who will choose them, and based on what solid and carefully crafted criteria will they be choosing them?

In theory, it could work; we saw a few negative ads this year so bad that even the non-partisan guys in the news media (Matthews, Fineman, Sabato, Todd, Cook, etc.) who try to stay impartial all agreed that they were over the line. If a widespread non-partisan consensus in that model can be achieved through this panel, then that would be a very good thing.

But that's a BIG if.

CTObserver said...

The answer to 'bad' speech isn't to regulate or control it; the answer is more speech correcting it.

Look at the results. Johnson was over the top and she lost; Zoni was absolutely disgusting and he lost. Rell didn't run a single negative ad, and she won.

Now that public campaign financing of elections is here, Williams wants to insulate his majority from any criticism. The intimidation factor of having your campaign materials reviewed by an 'impartial' panel, appointed by the incumbents is just too scarey to contemplate.

Dumbfounded Dem said...

6 words -

Un Con Sti Tu Tion Al

I like Williams but this is ridiculous.

bluecoat said...

Already the CT for Lieberman party has shown it's not happy with Joefor abondoning them to be an I-D in DC.

Dumb and dumber from CT's Bradley Airport managment are quotedin this article while Williams ponders the concept of free speech.

turfgrrl said...

bluecoat: I think Orman missed the irony of nominating and then electing Ned Lamont chair of the CT for Lieberman party. That would have been a perfect.

Suffield Notch Bob said...

I heard that Democrat council members in Enfield actually pondered the idea of outlawing campaign signs last week at the Council meeting, suggesting that candidates should donate their finds instead to charitable causes.......?1?1?1?

Hey - D_R and Ghengis - What kind of democracy are you guys living in up there... To the People's Republic of Longmeadow starting to rub off on Enfield?

Anonymous said...

Orman needs to spend more of his free time on another project.

Don Williams too! I have an idea Senator Williams, how about improving the lives of people that live in Connecticut with some tax reform. I will live with negative political ads if you reduce my tax burden.

Shadow said...

Maybe a less risky proposal for Williams in the same vein would have been to simply suggest enforcing slander laws when it comes to political ads; comparatively speaking, an appointed panel would be in much more danger of being politically pressured than a civil court judge. This current proposal being presented without any further details sets off alarm bells with people when it comes to the issue of free speech; it inspires visions of political rulings being decreed by a council with the judgement of the townspeople in "The Lottery".

Genghis Conn said...

What a terrible idea! I'm sometimes unsure what the council is thinking. Actually, strike the sometimes.

disgruntled_republican said...

Genghis for Mayor?

Stratford Dem said...

This is an awful idea-- who is going to determine what is "negative" and what is not? Don Williams? the Governor? Some mid-level bureaucrats?

Negative campaigning has been around since the inception of the American Republic. I actually think it is a good thing to let candidates point out the faults of their opponents. If the candidate over-reaches, the voters will call them on it. (Just ask Nancy Johnson!)

The good idea that Williams had would be to ban robo-calls. If it is a person that is calling, that is fine. But let's get rid of the 5,000 automated messages that just annoyed people in the campaign.

Bill Lee said...

Careful, Ghengis... The Hon. Disgrutled is right - questions like that land you on the Council!

Thanks for the CT2 map. Ought to provide hours of fun!

Onward!

turfgrrl said...

stratford dem: Yeah, all robocalls should be banned, not just political ones. Or maybe slightly less draconian, the robocall is okay if you can press zero and have your phone number then flagged as a do not call number and have another number (9) to press that give you contact info for the company and client the call is being placed for, in addition to a unique generated code to id the call and thus make it easier for fines to be collected by consumer protection agencies.

Anonymous said...

This half assed plan is yet another version of the nanny state that the local Dems seem determined to enact. I hope they go for it!

We need some good ammo for 2008...

bluecoat said...

just extend the "do-not-call" list to apply to pols and charities. you know - don't call me, I'll call you!!!!

Anonymous said...

A lot of the things you suggest Turgrl are available online already. the cga.ct.gov website has attendance records for public hearings and committee meetings. And lobbyist and PAC donations are available on the Sect of the State's site.

disgruntled_republican said...

Anon 254-

Wouldn't be better if they were all in one central location that was widely publicized?

brickbat said...

I respect Don Williams and think he's a very intelligent guy. But this idea is ridiculous.

There is simply no way to judge the content of these ads. If anonymous 11:00 thinks that the R ads about D votes are all accurate, he has a narrow view of what "accurate" means.

What these ads do is take one amendment or one version of one amendment and blow it up -- regardless of the context, regardless of whether the person voted otherwise on another amendment, etc...

But that doesn't mean there should be some panel issuing there own judgements about their "truthfulness". It's in the eye of the beholder, and government has no place making those kinds of decisions.

Anonymous said...

The sots website is not user-friendly.

As well, the lawmakers don’t enforce their own rules. Go look at the campaign finance reports on the SOTS website. For the most part, legislators don’t complete the “occupation” part of their filings. In turn, the reporters cannot easily “follow the money.”

whoever made the point about transparency is dead on.

wtfdnucsubsailor said...

I believe the impetus for the proposed legislation was the TV ad and mailer sent by the losing candidate in the 20th Senatorial District that implied wrong doing by his opponent were none existed. It was beyond the pail because it was a personal attack on the candidate rather than on the issues of the election. The elimination of this type of campaign ad is the "truth in advertising" desired. We can disagree on the issues and point out those disagreements. That is part of the process. The making of implied charges without any proof of wrongdoing is not appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the issue with Zoni's mailer a picture and not the substance? If so, would it violate the "fairness" section of DW's proposed legislation?

This proposal needs greater specifics and definition. It's much to ambigious right now.

Anonymous said...

Don Williams claims to have a law dregree but they obviously didn't teach him about this minor thing at whatever mail order law school he said he went to down south


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances"

Don Williams to the First Amendment: Drop Dead

Skydogct said...

There's more important issues, like health care and property tax reform, to deal with in the upcoming legislative session. Personally, I enjoy campaign ads, it beats watching Flomax commercials. I find many to be very creative and amusing. When pols run negative ads they're tossing the dice, just ask Nancy. Her commercial showing Chris Murphy knocking on a drug dealer's door was hilarious, though I don't think that was the response they wanted. Even Chris had to laugh at that. Was that ad effective? I doubt it. There's been negative ads as long as there has been campaigns. Joe Lieberman whined all the time about Ned Lamont's negative ads, but I didn't think Ned's ads were negative at all, just true. But Joe did a great job of convincing people they were negative. Don't try to legislate campaign ads, it's ridiculous. Mr. Williams, please focus on an issue that cries out for attention, like the fact that 400,000 CT residents are without healthcare.

Anonymous said...

400,000 CT residents are without healthcare. insurance. there is a difference.

Anonymous said...

Don Williams is like a guy who shows up to your house begging to use the bathroom and brings his own toilet paper in his briefcase. Seriously. What a strange thing to suggest. Isn't this just more incumbency protection? God forbid someone runs an advertisement that criticizes Don Williams. "Who is this Don Williams?" the people who see the commercial would be forced to ask. "He's the guy in our bathroom using his own toilet paper," someone would answer. And where would that leave you? Confused. Just like Don Williams.