Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: East

Good intentions gone astray: cure worse than the problem

Where is Elvis when we need him? The King, who was reported to have owned an arsenal of guns, was known for blasting TV sets when he didn't like something (particularly singers Robert Goulet and Mel Torme).

He would have a field day with this year's political campaign commercials.

With months to go before this election cycle is mercifully ended, I can relate to ol' E's rage about annoying TV. Oh for an Uzi and a full clip.

For a seeming eternity, viewers in the Memphis/north Mississippi area have been bombarded day and night by an incessant stream of attack commercials for the candidates in a runoff for the open House seat in Mississippi's first congressional district.

Thankfully, that particular exercise was scheduled to end with a vote Tuesday of this week. At this writing I don't know the winner, but if the campaign commercials were to be given any credence, the citizens of the district are the losers no matter the outcome, since both candidates have been portrayed as incompetents, liars, and losers with miserable records in the public offices they've already held.

With all the issues of major importance weighing on Mississippi and the nation, this campaign has been a microcosm of everything that's wrong with politics today — scurrilous, insulting, degrading, a compendium of charges, counter-charges, and vapid sound bites that presented no meaningful information about either candidate's qualifications to hold a seat in Congress.

If a voter knew the candidates only on the basis of the commercials, as is alas too often the case, it would be a matter of holding one's nose and tossing a dart to choose, or not voting at all.

A large measure of credit (?) for the TV blitz is due to massive amounts of money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (over $1 million) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (more than $600,000). Freedom's Watch, reported to have close links to the White House, and other organizations chipped in more. All that in addition to nearly $1.5 million raised by the two candidates.

While the candidates' own commercials were almost uniformly negative, those by the national organizations scaled the heights of negativity. And since the candidates don't have to approve ads from outside organizations, the result was a free-for-all of character assassination and innuendo.

The outside ads for this race and others around the country, including the 2008 presidential contest, are the result of good intentions gone awry — the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 by Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., was aimed at curbing so-called “soft money” contributions and influence of special interests on elections.

However noble the goal, the consensus is that it has been a dismal failure.

A loophole in the definition of organizations in Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code has been exploited to generate a flood of contributions from wealthy individuals, corporations, and organized groups with deep pockets wanting to promote a particular agenda.

The result: tens of millions of dollars spent on overtly partisan ads that malign and attack rather than convey factual, meaningful information about a candidate.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.