Prop 29 opponents hit, miss with TV ads

5:54 PM, May 22, 2012   |    comments
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With a warchest of more than $40 million, tobacco companies have been blanketing the airwaves statewide in hopes of beating back Proposition 29.

But how do the ads stack up when it comes to telling the truth?

Our look at one of the more recent ads suggests both some hits and misses on the accuracy scale, another reminder that political ads aren't the best way to really know what's in a ballot measure.

The most interesting choice in the latest Prop 29 opposition ad, especially when compared with earlier ads, is that the campaign has decided to stop noting that it's a proposed "tobacco tax."

Now it's just referred to as "almost a billion dollars in new taxes on Californians."

That seems somewhat misleading, given that it's only smokers who will pay extra (and that, while $735 million is a lot of money, it's debatable to call that "almost a billion dollars.")

The ad, not surprisingly, also doesn't offer some interesting context: even if Prop 29 passes, 14 states would still have higher tobacco taxes.

Then there's the issue of how and where those dollars would be spent. Prop 29's opponents continue to proclaim that the initiative doesn't require the money be spent in California. And, as far as the law goes, that's a fair point.

Only the preamble of Prop 29 refers to spending research dollars inside the state; the actual statutory language doesn't make the same promise.

Of course, those preambles are often brought up in legal challenges over initiatives and so perhaps a court would frown on any out-of-state cancer funding should Prop 29 pass.

Finally, there's the claim by opponents that Prop 29 would create "more bureaucracy" and "no accountability." The truth of that claim really lies with the viewer's own perception of those terms.  

While the initiative would create a new oversight commission (an unelected entity and, by definition, part of the "bureaucracy"), the initiative does seem to ensure at least one layer of accountability, namely, that a governor could remove six of the nine appointees at any time.

Four of the commissioners would be directly chosen by the governor and two by the state's director of public health, who is an appointee of the governor and, it would only seem fair, would follow along with the chief executive if told to do so.


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