Campaign wildcards

GOP Presumptive nominee for President John McCain has caused quite a stir with his latest set of ads attacking his Democrat counterpart Barack Obama. In the first ad titled “Celeb” McCain compares Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and makes the point that while Barack Obama is incredibly popular but has little leadership experience at McCain’s level and that celebrity can’t sustain a commander in chief alone. The ad does well do underscore this point however it fails because it concedes another: Barack Obama is incredibly popular. By the technical definition of popular vote (a good measure of how elections are won — electoral colleges being another story), McCain concedes that Obama may not be ready to lead the country but that McCain isn’t ready to win the presidential election. The ad, by including Spears and Hilton to make a comparison to Obama was successful in getting a lot of intention for its at-first-glance superficial character and belittling tone.

In the second ad named “The One”, McCain’s campaign compares Obama to a messianic character that can do no wrong. The ad is mocking in tone and is good red meat for the base, perhaps the other front besides the swing vote that McCain needs to convince to give him a shot at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue.

The “Celeb” ad is rumoured to have spoiled a surprise appearance by Obama in Chicago at this past weekend’s Lollapalooza where insiders say he was ready to introduce rapper Kanye West on stage. The Obama campaign is said to have been spooked by the ad and didn’t want to fuel talk around the coming volley from McCain. Given this song by rapper Ludacris endorsing Obama over McCain (a song lighting up the American right-wing blogosphere), Obama likely made a good decision by removing himself as an element of a perfect storm of bad publicity. Obama, celebrity, Kanye and Luda. It would have fit well into McCain’s narrative (and all by chance).

The latest in this entertaining story is an entry by Paris Hilton, the famous-for-being-famous celebrity featured in McCain’s ad. First consider McCain’s ad

and now Paris Hilton’s response

In election campaigns, its impossible to predict the wildcards such as the Ludacris endorsement. Further it’s the nature of the race that Obama would have to respond carefully to McCain “Celeb” ad by allegedly canceling on Kanye. Equally as unpredictable is this response by Hilton, which is more tangential to the core, but more viral among those with a surface view of the presidential race so far. While insiders will dismiss this as fodder for Entertainment Tonight and Jay Leno, though that’s where the populace is watching. And for McCain it’s unfortunate that Obama is popular.

Manufactured scandal

There is a faux controversy brewing in the media and among Liberal bloggers about Conservative ads that ran in the last election. As all parties do during elections, money was transfered between the national party and regional candidates. Conservatives ran their air war well and it was merely one piece of the strategy that paid off for the party that would form government after the contest on January 23rd 2006. Liberals allege that local campaigns funded “national” advertising and that the national campaign funded local ads which were national-like.

In the wake of this constructed controversy, Conservatives have responded by saying that “tag lines” in advertising attributed the ads to local candidates.

The Conservatives also claim that ads tag-lined with the names of local candidates ran locally. The Liberals, however, contest this local claim and also challenge the content of the ads and whether they are local in scope.

For all intents and purposes (but somehow is not approved under the Elections Act) a party could run 30 seconds of dead air and tag the ad to indicate that it was approved by the official agent for Jane or Joe Local, the Conservative/Liberal or NDP candidate. However, section 407 paragraph 1 of the Canada Elections Act states:

407. (1) An election expense includes any cost incurred, or non-monetary contribution received, by a registered party or a candidate, to the extent that the property or service for which the cost was incurred, or the non-monetary contribution received, is used to directly promote or oppose a registered party, its leader or a candidate during an election period.

Election expenses are incurred by local campaigns. Local campaigns bought local advertising to “promote or oppose a registered party, its leader or a candidate during an election period”. So, 30 seconds of dead air wouldn’t be allowed… but, a commercial promoting Stephen Harper and/or opposing Paul Martin is certainly allowed if it is paid for and tagged by the local campaign.

The Tories have kept their noses clean by purchasing separate ad buys for the national and local campaigns (national ads purchased by the national campaign and local ads purchased by the local candidates).

The Liberals may dispute the separate nature of the advertising purchases.

Here’s a signed letter from the advertising company commissioned by the Tories during the 2005/2006 writ period.

aff-thumb.jpg
Click to enlarge

In the letter, it states:

– Advertising buys for the national party were segregated from advertising buys for participating candidates. Retail Media was advised of which Conservative Candidates were interested in participating in additional regional media buys.
– Appropriate regional markets were identified for all participating candidates and specific media buys purchased in those markets.
– Appropriate tag lines were used in all advertisements identifying on whose behalf the advertisement was authorized.
– Appropriate invoices reflecting goods and services rendered were separately issued to participating Conservative Candidates and to the registered party based on the 4 segments identified.

and those 4 segments were:
– Media Buy – rest of Canada (excluding Quebec) – Registered Party
– Media Buy – Participating Candidates
– Media Buy – Quebec – Registered Party
– Media Buy – Quebec – Participating Candidates

So, the Conservative Party (national campaign) and the candidates (local campaign) were separately invoiced. It seems that all of the t’s were crossed and i’s dotted. Given that transfers of cash between local campaigns and the national campaign are perfectly legal, where’s the scandal here? Can somebody cite a section of statute or law that has been broken here?

New Conservative Ads

The Conservatives have launched their second barrage of ads this morning along the “Stephane Dion is not a leader” line.

This time, the Tories are focusing on Dion and the Senate and the obstructionist tactics that the Conservatives alledge the Liberals are using there.

NotALeader.ca was also launched today by the Conservatives and it features the blog of Kyoto the dog. Kyoto’s site is sure to be one of best Liberal blogs. The site also features the ads that were released today.

On the main Conservative.ca website, e-cards are featured and you can send your friends a flash animation of the Dion’s Senate tactics.

The ads have been launched to mark the dubious one year anniversary of Senate bill S-4, a bill to reduce the terms of senators to 8 years.

Conservatives, in the ads point out that senators can serve up to 45 years (until the age of 75).

Stephane Dion is on the record supporting limited Senate terms, however, he has been unable to get the bill passed by his own senators for one year now. Is Dion ineffective, or does he really favour the status quo.

Canadians have been interested in democratic reform, not the status quo and they’ve been interested in change for quite some time. The Liberals are obstructing legislation in the unelected, unaccountable Upper Chamber. Are the Liberals more interested in protecting entitlements instead of respecting the desire for reform?

Conservatives to release French ads today

I’ve been doing a bit of digging on the topic of Conservative french-language attack ads (since we all know they’re coming, and since the english-language versions were successful in English-Canada).

Will they attack Dion on his dismal environmental record (since it’s a big issue in Quebec)? Will they discuss Adscam Liberals being invited back into the party-fold?

I’m about 90% confident that the Tories will be making an announcement this morning detailing french-language ads to run in Quebec.

“Stéphane Dion n’est pas un lee-der”

UPDATE 1:02am: Upgrade to 99%. Just received word that Bernier’s running point on the presser mid-morning and that the ads will be “totally different” than the English ones (in footage of course, but in style too).

New PC Ontario ads

These ads were released today by the John Tory-led PC Party of Ontario. They are pure endorsement-style advertising where three spots feature three Ontarians singing the praises of John Tory as “a leader”.

First, the good…

The Ontario PC Party is cleverly pairing the “leader” theme with the federal Conservative “Dion is not a leader” advertising. In effect, they are piggy-backing on the success of the ads and the mindset already created for voters by the Dion ads. So, Dion isn’t a leader? John Tory comes in and fills the other half of the statement: “I’m a leader”.

The bad…

The ads are awfully boring and don’t hold the attention of the viewer. There is no hook. The ads are quiet and pensive in their delivery, however, it can come across as dead air. If these ads are to provoke feelings of trust and hope in a leader figure, some music behind the testimonials with some more black and white slides of Tory would help. Give me some french horns!

Here are the ads:

Bahadur


Kathy


Simone

What do you think of the ads? Will they be effective? Do they reach out to the appropriate audience?

Telecaster’s Jim D. Patterson is a Liberal. What are the consequences for free opinion and fair elections?

Yesterday, on Dave Rutherford’s show, the Calgary radio host had Jim Patterson, CEO of Telecaster (TVB). Rutherford got right to the point which I first raised in this post: Is Jim Patterson a partisan Liberal? While Patterson admitted that he supports the Liberal Party of Canada, he denied partisanship. I outlined about $4000 in donations that came from “Jim/James D. Patterson” (or someone that shares that exact name that lives in Lakefield Ontario) over a period from 2004-2006. The data compiled included one donation made just 12 days before Canadians went to the polls in the 2006 election. This donation came at the very time that Patterson had the last word on the suitability of election advertising for the home stretch of that election campaign.

Of course, party supporters (large and small) and even high donors to political parties are able to run large private corporations and organizations, but I question how appropriate it is for Mr. Patterson to oversee the advertising process during an election when his group has admitted more than one mistake when it comes to election/advocacy advertising? Telecaster made a mistake in dumping a Canadian Renewable Fuels (CRFA) advertisement and cited an odd request that CRFA require Stephen Harper’s permission because the ad included his image. Of course, issue and advocacy advertising cannot be subject to an easy veto by a political figure who may not like the content of an ad which may hold them to account. How would election advertising work in this climate?

Telecaster admitted its error and eventually let the CRFA advocacy ads run.

However, given Telecaster’s folding to Liberal (and CBC) demands during the last election that a Conservative ad be pulled only to have the private regulatory body flip-flop and re-approve it days later is unacceptable. Free elections cannot be run in this environment.

Should a non-partisan parliamentary body be assigned to provide oversight into potential partisan abuses of Telecaster’s unique position? The free market allows competition of ideas, of product and even of partisanship. However, when an effective monopolistic cabal has editorial control over election and advocacy advertising and its suitability for viewing on every private television network, the market is not free and potential abuses are bound to arise.

Is TVB’s Jim D. Patterson a Liberal partisan?

Yesterday, I broke the story about how a regulatory body of Canada’s private broadcasters was apparently holding back advertising produced by the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA).

The reason for the rejection of CRFA’s advertising? Insufficient size (and duration) of a disclaimer describing who produced the ad spots as TVB categorized the commercials as “Issues and Opinions” due to the buzzworthy nature of renewable fuels.

However, CRFA was given another bizarre reason for the rejection of one of their ads: a two second clip of Stephen Harper stumping during the previous election on a renewable fuels promise needed a “letter of attestation” from the Conservative leader in order for it to appear in the commercial. In other words, CRFA needed Harper’s permission to use Harper’s image even though the use of such an image was from a public event and without media restriction. The clip was used by CRFA to remind Canadians of the promise made by the Conservatives during the previous election on renewable fuels.

CRFA cried foul and rightly argued that such a stipulation for advertising would mean that public figures that debate and write legislation for the public could have an automatic veto over any commercial that they don’t like that featured their image. It should be noted that the issue of ownership of the video content was never in dispute, but rather that the subject of the video (Harper) had not signed off on it’s use.

This got me thinking. Surely there are other examples of commercials produced using the images of elected officials. Election advertising and especially attack ads come to mind.

During the closing days of the previous election, I doubt that Stephen Harper signed off on the blurry, war drum fade-in of his image while Liberals warned of “soldiers with guns. In our cities. We’re not making this up”. Why would he give his permission for such a spot? Further, if TVB is responsible for editorial control over commercials that air on private broadcasters, why on Earth did a spot showing women hunched over cowering while a voice-over falsely accused Harper of being an ideologue that would prevent a woman from her right to choose get approved, while Corn Cob Bob got canned for using an innocuous clip of Stephen Harper (for about two seconds on less than 5% of the screen).

The TVB apparently greenlighted obviously slanderous ad copy while rejecting a happy-go-lucky ad about renewable fuels.

During the last days of the 2006 election, after the Liberals made those war drum spots (we’re not making this up), the Conservatives responded with their own ad with clips of Liberals saying the soldier ad was a “bad idea” etc and a clip of Paul Martin admitting that he approved the ads. The Liberals were quick to condemn the ad in a press release dated January 15th, 2006:

Conservatives Called on to Withdraw TV Spots
January 15, 2006

The Conservative Party of Canada has produced new television ads which the Liberal Party of Canada believes are in violation of Canada’s Copyright laws.

The Liberal Party of Canada calls on the Conservative Party to withdraw these ads.

Here’s the ad:

The Liberals lobbied to have the ad pulled because they claimed that the Conservatives violated CBC copyright by using a clip of Paul Martin admitting that he approved the controversial Liberal attack ads. A CP story from January 16th, 2006 gives us some more perspective:

OTTAWA (CP) — A new Conservative TV ad is reminding voters some of Paul Martin’s own candidates disapproved of a controversial Liberal attack which some say implied a Tory government would send tanks into the streets.

The Conservative ad recycles quotes from prominent Liberals including John McCallum, former defence minister, who last week called his party’s ad a mistake.

The 30-second Liberal spot was based on a campaign promise by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to station 500-member battalions of Canadian Forces personnel in major cities for deployment in emergencies.

The Liberal ad outraged military personnel, who said it implies the Tories were advocating some form of martial law.

It was quickly yanked from the Liberal party’s English website, but a French version aired on television in Quebec.

Martin has said he gave an initial go-ahead, then changed his mind and pulled the ad, which McCallum and Keith Martin, a former Reform party MP and now a Liberal incumbent, later criticized.

The Liberals called on the Conservatives to withdraw the ad in a statement Sunday, saying they believe it violates copyright laws by using CBC footage which they did not have permission to use.

But the Conservatives said all their ads were approved by the party’s legal counsel and Telecaster, the Canadian advertising authority. They added they haven’t received any complaints about the ad from the CBC.

Telecaster (TVB) initially approved the ad for distribution, however, the Liberals complained and the ad was subsequently pulled.

TVB’s greenlight of controversial Liberal ads, the rejection of CRFA’s ads which favourably portray Harper’s environmental policy, along with the pulling of the previously approved Conservative response ad during the past election after Liberals complained raises a few red flags.

As with other elements of our democracy, the approval of private advertising of election ads (and non-election advocacy ads) should be accomplished on a level playing field. Why should one party (whether Conservative or Liberal) have an advantage over the other when trying to get advertising approved for consumption by the public on private networks? Of course, private networks are free to do business with whomever they choose, but would it be a scandal if the umbrella group that is is in charge of editorial content control for these networks controlled for preferred partisanship rather than what they are supposed to control for? (hate speech, indecency, promotion of unlawful acts)

According to the Television Bureau of Canada’s website, the president of the organization is a man named Jim Patterson. In this document we find out that Jim Patterson also goes by the name James and that his middle initial is D.

I decided to search the Elections Canada donations database for donations from people named Jim/James D. Patterson. The following results describe one individual who, according to Elections Canada, lives in Lakefield Ontario with the postal code K0L 2H0.

Name of contributor Political party / Return type / End period Date received Class of contributor / Part # of the return Contribution transferred to (leadership contestant) Monetary ($) Non-monetary ($)
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2005 Dec. 31, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 450.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2005 May 25, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 250.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2005 Dec. 20, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 450.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2004 Jun. 30, 2004 Individuals / Part 2a 500.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2004 Sep. 29, 2004 Individuals / Part 2a 1,000.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2005 May 25, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 250.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Dec. 2005 Dec. 20, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 450.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Sep. 2006 Jul. 27, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2006 Apr. 28, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2006 May 30, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2006 Jun. 30, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Mar. 2006 Jan. 31, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Mar. 2006 Feb. 28, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Mar. 2006 Mar. 31, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Sep. 2006 Aug. 31, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Sep. 2006 Sep. 29, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
James D Patterson Lloyd, Diane / Liberal Party of Canada / Peterborough Jan. 11, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 250.00

Is this the same Jim/James D. Patterson that is the head of the Television Bureau of Canada, the private regulatory body that has editorial control over “Issues and Opinion” advertising?

If so, should a partisan be in charge of approving ads during a time sensitive period (such as an election) where parties depend on television advertising for their most critical rapid responses? Also, would it be appropriate for a partisan to have an advanced look at a competing party’s ads?