News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Anti-Doolittle ads taken off freeway billboard

By: Jason Probst, The Press-Tribune
Wednesday, August 3, 2005 10:27 AM PDT

A controversial set of political ads aired on a freeway billboard attacking Rep. John Doolittle were taken off Thursday after the Roseville Auto Mall complained about the spots.

The ads, which began airing July 1, were paid for by Revolt of the Elders, a group of Republicans headed by Pete McCloskey, former GOP Congressman from the Bay Area and Doolittle critic. The organization paid $41,500 for a one-year contract to run the ads, which were displayed on the billboard at Interstate 80 near the Eureka exit.

Smart Sign Media manages advertising content for the billboards, and was informed by Auto Mall marketing director John Winkle the signs violated ad standards for the billboard when he saw them Thursday. The nine-second messages had been running 400 times a day.

When asked about the ads Tuesday in Roseville, Doolittle didn't seem concerned about their impact or the group's drive to unseat him.

"I think the voters will have to be the judges for that," Doolittle said.

The decision to ask the ads be pulled was due to content agreements for what can go on the billboards, and not political, Winkle said.

"I don't even know John Doolittle. The deal is we don't accept political advertising. That advertising got there by mistake," Winkle said. "It was sold by Smart Sign and they didn't tell us about that particular ad."

Winkle said the billboard content agreement bars ads for tobacco and alcohol in addition to political messages.

"We've never done it," Winkle said of political ads. "That sign has been up there for eight years and it's the first time this has happened."

Smart Sign Media owner Tom Langeland said he was contacted by Winkle to pull the ads, alleging that Winkle said he received complaints from the city.

"Because of the way we operate our business and have these signs on joint ventures with large tax contributors, the Auto Mall has a relationship with the city," Langeland said. "(The Auto Mall) also has veto power over the signs."

Winkle disagreed with that assertion, and said the city of Roseville had no input on the ads and the decision to pull them. City spokesperson William Boyer said that "we are unaware of any city involvement in that issue."

Revolt of the Elders is a 527 group, which gives it tax-exempt fundraising status; 527s have played an increasingly active role in politics in recent years because of their ability to generate large amounts of money for specified agendas. Doolittle added that most of these organizations opposing Republicans are comprised of former Democratic Party operatives.

Richard Robinson, Doolittle's chief of staff, said that the ads wouldn't have convinced Placer County voters anyway; Doolittle has held the seat since being elected in 1990 and in election years is considered a very safe incumbent. Robinson also alleged that McCloskey enlisted Auburn Vice Mayor Mike Holmes to run against Doolittle next year.

"McCloskey's a smart guy, but for some reason he thinks he's running a campaign in the Bay Area," Robinson said. "I can understand why the Auto Mall decided to take the ads down, given that they were highly political and paid for by the same guy that campaigned for John Kerry last year."

Smart Sign Media also ran pro-choice messages on a billboard in Manteca that elicited protests from church groups.

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"Every time we do something political, something like this happens," Langeland said. "We did a pro choice ad and I got 10 church groups that wanted to do a counter (ad)."

McCloskey said Revolt of the Elders is comprised of Republicans who are dissatisfied with the current direction of the party.

"We're essentially a lot of old Republicans in our 70s and 80s," said McCloskey, who lives in Rumsey. "I think it's a very difficult thing to defeat Doolittle, in part because so few people in his district know about his voting record."

The group has also aired spots since spring targeting other prominent Congressional conservatives, including Tom Delay and Richard Pombo of Tracy.

"Fiscal responsibility just isn't part of their game. We have these tremendous budget deficits," McCloskey said. "We have urged Republican moderates that we would like to restore old Republican traditional values that existed up until the second Bush administration."

Four different ads ran in the brief campaign, attacking Doolittle's votes against benefits for members of the National Guard, opposition to embryo stem cell research, and alleged connections to Jack Abramoff, an Indian gaming lobbyist currently under investigation.

McCloskey, who served in Congress from 1967-1983 while representing the Bay Area, has a decorated and contentious history with the GOP. He ran on an antiwar platform in 1972 against Richard Nixon, and in 2004 supported John Kerry over George W. Bush. He is also a decorated Marine who served in Korea, winning the Navy Cross, Silver Star and two Purple Hearts as a rifle platoon leader.


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