You might not realize it, but if you’re an Iowa taxpayer, you are also helping re-elect Secretary of State Mike Mauro and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald. That’s because both of them are using their offices’ advertising budgets to build their personal name ID through new mail, radio, and TV advertisements.
Throughout the fall, Fitzgerald’s office has increased its promotion of three programs that his office oversees – College Savings Iowa, The Great Iowa Treasurer Hunt, and the Iowa Women and Money Conference. In all of the advertisements, Fitzgerald is prominently featured. On KCCI News Channel 8, the Treasure’s Office has paid $15,500 to run ads from September 9th to October 3rd.
A review of Fitzgerald’s website shows that no articles were published from August 2, 2007, to May 20, 2008. That’s a full nine months without any reports on College Savings Iowa, Woman and Money Conferences, or The Great Iowa Treasurer Hunt. However, as an election draws nearer, Fitzgerald has lots of news to report.
This year, Fitzgerald’s office has published 35 entries to its website, up from 13 in 2009, three in 2008, and only one in 2007. Were these programs less important to Fitzgerald in past years than they seem to be in 2010, which just happens to be an election year? One would think that these programs would always be important, whether it’s an election year or not.
Not to be outdone, Mike Mauro is now running radio and television ads that began airing on September 27th. The ads are intended to help ensure that all Iowans, especially those who are disabled, learn about the Secretary of State’s AutoMARK ballot voting system that allows Iowans living with a disability to vote independently and in private.
While it’s reasonable that the Secretary of State would make sure that disabled people know about the services that are available to them, it’s the way that the ads are structured that raises questions. The radio ad, which ran yesterday during WHO Radio’s Van and Bonnie in the Morning, the most expensive radio show in the Des Moines market, featured Mauro introducing himself at the State’s Secretary of State.
Mauro’s Republican challenger, Matt Schultz, is taking issue with Mauro’s new advertising campaign.
“I think it is important to promote voting, especially to get the message out about technological advances to help the disabled vote, but clearly my opponent is using this as a self promotion tool, not a public service announcement,” said Schultz.
“This is wrong. My opponent should reimburse the taxpayers for the money spent on these ads. These are the same kinds of things Chet Culver has done using taxpayer money to campaign and promote his failed I-Jobs. Mauro and Culver are promoting a culture of corruption. When I am elected Secretary of State, I will not use taxpayer money for political self-promotion. This has to stop,” Schultz added.
It is also interesting that the Secretary of State and State Treasurer’s offices even have money in their budgets for all of these promotional activities after Governor Culver was forced to institute an across-the-board budget cut because he and the Democrats routinely spend more money that the state receives in revenue. Can it be possible that Culver’s cuts cost teachers their jobs, but we still have money to promote the programs of these two offices and the office holders themselves?
It’s also telling that the State Auditor is not out there making sure people know that his office is available to audit their local school, city, or county government finances. Likewise, the Secretary of Agriculture isn’t running ads declaring that October is “Celebrate the Harvest” month.
Mauro and Fitzgerald should be ashamed for using tax dollars to help build their name ID across the state. Members of congress are not allowed to using their franking privileges to send out mail within 60 days of an election, so why would Mauro and Fitzgerald find it acceptable use your tax dollars to fill the airwaves and mail boxes with ads featuring their voices and photographs right before voters go to the polls?
Finally, if these ads fill a vital public service, why don’t either of these offices have a YouTube page? The State Treasurer’s ads are nowhere to be found on his official website. At least Mauro has his ads posted on his website. However, it is interesting that he would make a person with a disability, or anyone else for that matter, figure out how to download and open a wav file instead of allowing them to simply push the play button on a YouTube video.
If this was really about providing meaningful and useful services to Iowans, you would think these ads would be easy to find and view on the internet. The fact is that they are not easy to view on the internet, which only confirms that the production of these ads it is really about building up name ID on TV and radio before an election.
Once again, the Iowa taxpayer is getting the raw end of the deal.
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