Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 29, 2010

AdWatch: GOP ad questions Bernero


---- — TITLE: "Priceless"

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

AIRING: Began airing Monday on broadcast and cable stations statewide; was up Saturday in some markets.

PAID FOR: By the Republican Governors Association.

SCRIPT: Announcer: "Maintenance of Virg Bernero's office aquarium: $2,699 taxpayer dollars.

"Mayor Bernero's office food bill: $20,012 taxpayer dollars.

"Personalized Bernero pencils: $1,277 TAXPAYER dollars.

"A plan for fiscal responsibility for Michigan? Priceless."

KEY IMAGES: The ad opens with video of colorful fish swimming in a tank. These words appear over the image: "Virg Bernero's aquarium: $2,699 TAXPAYER dollars."

The ad then switches to an image of a chef in a white top hat putting the finishing touches on an expensive-looking meal, with the words, "Bernero's good eating: $20,012 TAXPAYER dollars."

Next, a clipboard and pencil are shown, then a close-up of a pencil showing "Virg Bernero" on it. These words show up on the screen: "Bernero's personalized pencils: $1,277 TAXPAYER dollar."

The image shifts to video of Republican candidate Rick Snyder speaking on the telephone, then switches to Snyder sitting at a desk and looking into the camera. These words are on the screen: "Fiscal responsibility: Priceless."

ANALYSIS: This is the third ad being run by the Republican Governors Association to boost Snyder. The RGA has money to pour into the Snyder ads in part because its single-largest contributor this election cycle, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, has just donated more than $2.5 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. The chamber has endorsed Snyder.

In its first ad, the RGA portrayed Snyder as someone from outside politics who can bring fresh solutions to the state's problems and ties into Snyder's own portrayal of himself as "one tough nerd." The second RGA ad criticized Bernero for his service as a county commissioner, state legislator and mayor and labeled him a "career politician."

In this third ad, the RGA is trying to make Bernero look like someone who has wasted public money during his five years as governor. Voters are angry with what they see as wasteful government spending, so this ad could hurt the mayor with those who think an office aquarium and personalized pencils aren't necessary.

But Bernero's record shows he has made sacrifices during his five years in office.

He has cut his pay 10 percent, decreased his office budget every year, cut his health care benefits and given up his city-owned car. His campaign spokesman says the money spent on food was for official city events, not Bernero himself. He adds the aquarium was installed in the mayor's office by an earlier mayor, David Hollister, and is a popular attraction for school children touring City Hall.

The dollar amounts in the ad seem pretty small, and Bernero has a record of making do with less. Snyder's fiscal responsibility plan is full of broad ideas and few details on how it will work.

Still, the ad gives the RGA a chance to continue trying to paint Bernero as a career politician who hasn't been careful with the public purse.