Thursday, February 8, 2007

Abusing the System

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

The chairman of the House elections committee said yesterday that the legislature should curb the governor's ability to appear in taxpayer-funded public service announcement ads during an election year.

That came as the campaign manager for Gov. Ernie Fletcher said the governor would no longer appear in any television or radio ads touting Kentucky's various tourist destinations. "The governor wants to be beyond reproach on these things," said Marty Ryall, Fletcher's campaign manager.

Fletcher had narrated radio ads and appeared in television spots for attractions such as Lake Barkley and the Louisville Slugger Museum since July. Ryall said state tourism officials sought to use Fletcher as a pitchman for tourism, not for any political reasons. But Fletcher now faces former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville and Paducah businessman Billy Harper in the May 22 Republican primary election.

Still, Rep. Darryl T. Owens, a Louisville Democrat, said he is drafting a bill that would set a time frame in which an incumbent couldn't appear in a state advertising campaign during an election year. He said he hadn't decided how long that ban would be. "The goal is to make the playing field level," said Owens, who was named the head of the Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Committee last month.

Owens said that incumbents will have some advantages -- but shouldn't be able to have the taxpayers fund ads during a campaign. "And we're in the campaign season," he said.

Randall Fiveash, the state's tourism commissioner, said Fletcher, as governor, was the best spokesman for the state. But the plan has since been revised and first lady Glenna Fletcher will be replacing Fletcher in the spots. "Our job is to promote tourism, but there is a contentious primary going on so things have changed," he said.

Senate Republican Floor Leader Dan Kelly of Springfield also said the legislature should look at whether to limit all statewide officials from appearing in such spots around an election, especially considering this is only the second time a governor has been able to seek a second consecutive term. "The fact that we're in new territory warrants some investigation," he said.

Another key Democratic House member, State Government Committee Chairman Mike Cherry, said he wanted to see how other states handle the matter. Some states, such as Maryland and Minnesota, have banned public officials from appearing in such ads.

Last year, Alabama lawmakers outlawed airing of such public service announcements featuring officials within six months of an election. House Speaker Jody Richards, one of seven Democrats running for governor, declined to comment "because of the unusual set of circumstances" of his presence in the race.

Replacing the Governor with his wife? This will prohibit free campaign advertising how?

Governor Fletcher desires being beyond reproach. His abuse of Kentucky’s taxpayers and ethics is beyond reason.

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