Senator: No politicians in ‘public service’ adsIn Sen. Tracy Potter’s world, politicians should have their names in smaller type on official documents, and they should not be seen or heard in any taxpayer-financed advertising. The Bismarck Democrat attempted to coax the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday into supporting his bill to bar elected officials from appearing or speaking in any public service announcements paid for by public funds.
By: By Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — In Sen. Tracy Potter’s world, politicians should have their names in smaller type on official documents, and they should not be seen or heard in any taxpayer-financed advertising.
The Bismarck Democrat attempted to coax the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday into supporting his bill to bar elected officials from appearing or speaking in any public service announcements paid for by public funds.
The legislation, which eventually will go to the full Senate, also would resurrect a law that barred state and local government officials from printing their names on official documents in larger type than was used to print their agency’s name.
The Legislature repealed the restriction 12 years ago. Potter’s bill attempts to reinstate it with a possible $500 fine for violations.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Potter described his measure as “pet-peeve legislation” and said any officeholder who features himself or herself in a public service ad is committing “marketing malpractice.”
“If the tax commissioner believes that people should file their taxes electronically, he can create an ad that encourages people to file their taxes electronically,” Potter said. “He does not need to appear in it.”
Jack McDonald, an attorney for the North Dakota Broadcasters Association and the North Dakota Newspaper Association, opposed the measure. Public-service announcements provide important advertising income, he said.
“It certainly is more of an incentive, and more attention-getting” if an elected official appears in an ad, McDonald said. “We just don’t think this is a problem.”
Rod Backman, who is chairman of a state committee monitoring the upcoming census, said federal officials want state elected officials and American Indian tribal chairmen to do public service announcements about the importance of cooperating with census workers.
Backman, a former state budget director, said Potter’s bill should include an exception for emergency announcements.
Potter has been critical of recent ads featuring Tax Commissioner Cory Fong, who discussed a legislative tax relief program; Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, who has appeared with U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad in television spots advertising the Marketplace economic development fair; and Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm, who was shown in one television ad discussing Medicare prescription drug benefits. Johnson and Conrad are Democrats; Fong and Hamm are Republicans.
Hamm’s ad ran last summer, when he was running for his first four-year term as insurance commissioner. His Democratic opponent, Jasper Schneider, protested that Hamm was campaigning at taxpayer expense, a charge Hamm denied.
Potter said political incumbents already have enough advantages without advertising themselves on the public dime.
“I’m offering this simply to reduce the temptation to use government money to aid an incumbent in their pursuit of political success,” Potter said.
The bill is SB2275.