February 16, 2006
Pro-DeLay ad denied

Maybe we should just declare a moratorium on all political advertising related to the CD22 race this year.

After four Houston TV stations initially refused last month to show an ad criticizing the Republican House member from Sugar Land, at least one local station is refusing to run a new spot that promotes the lawmaker and attacks a prominent supporter of the Democrats.

"We have chosen not to take the spot in its current form," said D'Artagnan Bebel, vice president and general manager of the local Fox affiliate, KRIV (Channel 26). He would not elaborate on why.


The 30-second spot from the conservative Free Enterprise Committee attacks billionaire financier and Democratic supporter George Soros for spending "$25 million against President Bush. He also bankrolled the liberals linked to attacks on Tom DeLay."

Soros contributed $300,000 to the Campaign for America's Future, which along with the Public Campaign Action Fund, put out the ad that highlighted ties between DeLay and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.


The new ad features pictures of a bewildered-looking Soros followed by a smiling DeLay. "When you see attacks on DeLay, consider the source," it says. "And tell Tom DeLay to keep fighting for your conservative values."

You know what? I don't like this decision any more than I liked the ones that prevented the anti-DeLay ads from appearing at first. This ad sounds like the usual boogeyman scaremongering that I'd expect from a group like the Free Enterprise Committee, but stupidity is (for better or worse) not a disqualification from the public discourse. Are they making a factual claim that's provably false? Skirting the line on slander? Depicting Soros with horns and a tail? If the answers to these questions are all "No", then I have to say, I don't see what the fuss is. And I damn sure don't like this trend of local stations vetoing political ads, even if this is the first time I can recall where it was a pro-Republican ad that got the axe. Though I'd prefer that the current legal standards be changed to require more transparency in advertising, if this ad meets those standards, it should be allowed to run. I don't understand why this is not the case, just as I didn't understand it the last time.

Meanwhile, on a side note, DeLayVsWorld adds some extra context to the recent Chron story about DeLay's attacks on primary opponent Tom Campbell (I noted the Fort Bend Now piece on this topic). An item of interest from the AP wire story:

DeLay's campaign charged that Campbell, a Houston attorney, "tried to hide the fact" that he's voted in only two Republican primaries since registering to vote in Fort Bend County a dozen years ago. The campaign also alleged Campbell lied about his activities with the Fort Bend Republican Party, is raising money outside the district, and that his campaign commercial contains footage from Michigan.


Campbell answered, "I don't recall," when asked how many of the last four Republican primaries he voted in. Campbell acknowledged to The Associated Press that he only voted in two primaries in the last 12 years.

"I have not voted as often as I should have," he said. "I have a national (legal) practice and travel hundreds of thousands of miles."

The issue of a candidate having a spotty voting record came up in the 2005 HISD1 election. I said then that I don't consider it to be that big a deal, but from the feedback I got, I'd say I'm squarely in the minority on that score. Be that as it may, Campbell's excuse for not voting is baloney. We have these things called "early voting" and "absentee voting", which he really ought to look into. It should be the exception, not the rule for one's travel schedule to affect one's ability to vote. I hate to say it, but between that and some of the other allegations against Campbell, he comes off looking like an amateur. Which is a shame, but that's how it goes.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 16, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

I have to admit that's weird. The only thing I can imagine is, since they already nixed the anti-DeLay ad, they figured they'd get less grief for nixing a pro-DeLay ad too than for being obviously one-sided.

The trend really accelerated in 2004. First the networks refused to air MoveOn's "Child's Pay" ad during the Super Bowl (although doing so failed to immunize their halftime show from the FCC's wrath); later, Sinclair wanted to air an anti-Kerry propaganda piece; then the networks turned down a Church of Christ ad merely for showing a church turning back two men - perhaps a same-sex couple, but their cameo was so brief it was hard to tell. Nevertheless, it was too much for the networks. And radio's not much better, with Howard Stern fleeing to satellite, and Congress threatening to follow.

'Tis the dawning of the age of censorship.

Posted by: Mathwiz on February 16, 2006 4:17 PM

Every political ad that is neither blatantly libelous nor illegally funded should be run... no exceptions. It doesn't matter whether the ad denied by a station or network is produced by a frequently and unfairly maligned Democratic organization, or by a lying, sleazy, ugly, slash-and-burn, ... um, where was I? :)

Seriously, government at every level is best served when advocates of every candidate have their say in the media. Blocking this commercial because an earlier opposing commercial was blocked, if that's what the station is doing, is wrong as surely as blocking the earlier commercial was.

Posted by: Steve Bates on February 16, 2006 5:55 PM