Controversial ad pulled from one TV station

A television ad urging North Dakotans to tell Rep. Earl Pomeroy they "won't forget" his vote for health care reform includes "false claims" that got it pulled from airing on at least one station in the state, according to the Democrat's campaign ...

A television ad urging North Dakotans to tell Rep. Earl Pomeroy they "won't forget" his vote for health care reform includes "false claims" that got it pulled from airing on at least one station in the state, according to the Democrat's campaign manager.

In a June 11 news release, Dianne Mondry said the ad by Arlington, Va., organization Americans for Prosperity has inaccuracies about Pomeroy's record and what the reform will actually do. It's aired on stations in Grand Forks and around the state since last Thursday.

One of the biggest issues, Mondry said, is that the ad claims the reform included "tax hikes that have already led to thousands of jobs lost."

The ad cites an Associated Press story from April to back up that claim. But those 2,500 job cuts at Sallie Mae are because of new regulations -- included as a piece of the reform legislation -- that cut banks out of the federal student loan business.

Mondry said those job cuts are "clearly unrelated to health reform," which the ad implied.


Health care reform will cause tax changes, but those haven't gone into effect.

In a June 10 letter to stations, Brian Svoboda, Pomeroy's legal counsel, said a tanning salon tax won't begin until July 1. And the main tax changes in the bill -- which were also cited by Americans for Prosperity -- won't kick in until 2013.

"The claim that these far-off tax changes have resulted in job losses is entirely without foundation," Svoboda wrote.

He pointed out stations are required under Federal Communication Commission rules to "protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive" advertising.

"This advertisement's description of the effect of the health care bill is false and misleading, and your station should immediately take action to remove it from your schedule," Svoboda wrote.

'All interpretation'

In last week's news release, Mondry said the "willfully false" information in the ad prompted KNDX in Bismarck to stop running it on its airwaves. The station's general manager was unavailable for comment.

It's "no surprise" that an out-of-state special interest group would come after Pomeroy, Mondry said, but Americans for Prosperity "crossed the line" with its ad.


"They do not have the right to spread lies about Earl's record," Mondry wrote. "Here in North Dakota, people sometimes disagree but they have the decency to stick to the facts."

When asked for further comment, Mondry told the Herald that Americans for Prosperity pulled the ad from its YouTube page last week. An ad was back on the group's website Monday morning.

"I think the letter and the evidence in the letter as to the untruths in the ad speaks for itself," she said.

Carol Anhorn, general sales manager for Grand Forks' WDAZ and Fargo's WDAY television outlets, said the stations' legal counsel found "nothing inappropriate" about continuing to run the ad.

"We were advised that there was no reason for us to pull it by our FCC attorney, so we are leaving it as per their advice," she said.

Mentzer Media, an ad agency based in Towson, Md., provided "pages and pages and pages" of documentation backing up the ad's claims, Anhorn added.

A representative for Mentzer Media told the Herald they can't comment on their clients and refused to provide the evidence they sent to stations.

Americans for Prosperity did not return a request for comment Monday afternoon. CRC Public Relations, which sent out a news release promoting the ad, also did not return a request for comment.


Anhorn said she's been doing her job for 15 years and an issue like this "occasionally comes up" during election years.

"It's all interpretation of what they meant by what they said in the ad," she said.

Anhorn pointed out she's not an attorney, so she leaves matters of accuracy or misleading statements "in the hands of the professionals" -- the company's attorneys.

"I don't pretend to understand what each different side claims in the ad," she said. "We requested documentation from them for what they put in the ad and they provided that to us."

The ad is scheduled to air until today on WDAZ and WDAY, but Mentzer Media could sign on for another week of advertising.

But even if it does continue to air on local stations, the ad will be different than the version that ran late last week. Anhorn said Mentzer Media is replacing the ad, and the new version will start airing today.

"Evidently the agency decided to change it on their own," she said. Anhorn was unsure what the changes would be.

WDAZ and WDAY are owned by Forum Communications, which also owns the Herald.


Ryan Johnson is a reporter at The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, which is owned by

Forum Communications Co.

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