Archive for Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Governor hopefuls’ ads bend the facts

Analysis shows candidates’ spots don’t always paint full picture

October 2, 2002


Despite months of campaigning, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius and Republican Tim Shallenburger will personally meet only a fraction of Kansas voters in their race for governor.

That means most Kansans will get their glimpses of the two candidates only through expensive and slick television commercials. The candidates will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars placing ads in the four major TV markets of Kansas City, Mo., Wichita, Topeka and Joplin, Mo., which reaches southeast Kansas.

The importance of such televised ads would be tough to overestimate in a state where 1.6 million voters are spread over 82,282 square miles.

Both campaigns swear by television ads, saying they are an efficient way to reach a large number of voters. And both campaigns jealously guard information on how much they will spend for fear of giving their opposition an advantage.

Because studies have shown many voters decide whom to support based on political ads, the Lawrence Journal-World, 6News and World Online will provide a close-up look at the content of the ads in the governor's race and other contests leading up to the Nov. 5 election. Called Truth Test, the series will dissect the ads, versions of which will appear on the Journal-World Web site, at

Here's a look at some of the current crop.


"Find a better way"

The 30-second ad shows Shallenburger speaking to a cheering crowd, walking in a field with a farmer, speaking with an elderly woman, schoolchildren and emergency workers, and finally walking with his family. During the commercial, a narrator makes several claims, a positive quote from Democratic Party Chairman Tom Sawyer is shown, and Shallenburger speaks directly to the viewer.

Claim: "When Tim Shallenburger was speaker of the Kansas House, he found a way to cut taxes and balance four budgets in a row."

Fact: Shallenburger was speaker of the House 1995-98. During that time, the state experienced growth in revenues due to a surging economy. Many states, including Kansas, cut taxes and increased spending during the period. Shallenburger played a key role in those tax cuts. Kansas lawmakers are required by law to adopt balanced budgets.

Claim: "As state treasurer, Shallenburger won awards for cutting waste and taxpayer spending."

Fact: One of the awards Shallenburger cites is the Marquis Award from the Mid-American Payment Exchange. The Treasurer's Office reported it was nominated for the agency's excellence in processing electronic payments, and for work promoting the use of electronic payments by other state agencies, such as Kansas Department of Revenue.

Claim: Even Democrats have praised his leadership. The words "Shallenburger was easy to work with and had a solid leadership style" are attributed to Democratic State ChairmanTom Sawyer.

Fact: This statement is not a quote, but a paraphrase that appeared in a newspaper story. The article went on to quote Sawyer as saying that Shallenburger's no-tax pledge would hurt the state. "My fear with Tim is that he has painted himself into such a corner that he will have no choice but to make those Draconian cuts that will hurt our Kansas children," Sawyer said.

Shallenburger: "My mission has always been to make Kansas better without bankrupting our families. We need to find efficiency in government. We need to find ways to do more with less. We'll fund schools, we can grow our economy and create more jobs. It just takes the courage to say you're not going to raise taxes and find a better way."

Fact: Budget experts forecast the need for hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts, new revenue or both to balance next year's budget. Public school funding makes up half the state budget. Neither Shallenburger nor his Democratic opponent Kathleen Sebelius have provided specifics on how to deal with this problem.

Kathleen Sebelius:

"Crime plan"

The 30-second ad shows an elderly man, a child and Kathleen Sebelius working at a desk, then a policeman (Sebelius supporter Maj. Mike Padilla of the Topeka Police Department) says, "Kathleen Sebelius." The rest of the ad depicts Sebelius speaking to police officers, ambulance personnel and talking with schoolchildren while a narrator talks about Sebelius' crime plan.

Claim: "The Sebelius plan: Double the mandatory sentences for violent sexual predators who prey on our kids."

Fact: Under state law, judges can cite a compelling reason to make sentences longer for sexual predators, or any other crime, although it is not mandatory. Some repeat sex offenders already face an automatic doubling of their sentence with special sentencing rules. Departures from state sentencing guidelines may be appealed to higher courts.

Claim: "Partner with local law enforcement and emergency personnel to safeguard Kansas from terrorism and crack down on drugs like meth that threaten our communities and schools. Protecting the people of Kansas. Kathleen Sebelius. Governor."

Fact: The state already is working with local law enforcement and health emergency officials on responses to potential terrorism. On the issue of cracking down on methamphetamine, state lawmakers approved a law in 1999 that increased penalties against those convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine and gave courts the option to double sentences on repeat offenders.

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