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A Public-Service Announcement

Posted Thursday, April 15, 2004

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Consider This...

Maybe you saw the public-service ads in 2003 reminding North Carolinians of the millions of dollars in unclaimed property they are owed or informing them of the state's no-call list for telemarketers or warning of identity theft. Each of those ads prominently featured state leaders, identified by name and face, who were instrumental in producing them.

What is their real purpose?

Apparently you won't be seeing those ads in 2004. That's because State law prohibits the use of State funds for ads featuring the likeness of declared candidates for public office.

It's not that informing the public of state services is prohibited; it's that doing it for political gain is.

So Attorney General Roy Cooper (no-call list and identity theft) and State Treasurer Richard Moore (unclaimed property) cannot legally run public-service ads for their respective programs in an election year in which they are candidates.

Will we see new public-service ads featuring the information on these programs without the likeness of Cooper or Moore? There is precedent for this type of ad. Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue's likeness won't be found in her office's ads regarding teen smoking.

In the event we don't see these ads, we must ask ourselves: What is their real purpose? Educating North Carolinians or promoting the personal agendas, and careers, of politicians?

Surely Cooper and Moore wouldn't argue that their ad campaigns informing citizens of the no-call list and unclaimed property fund, respectively, were so successful that they no longer need to educate the public about these programs.

Ideally the ads are designed with the sole purpose of educating citizens. If some political gain accrues to the Attorney General or State Treasurer, so be it. But when the ads must be shelved for an entire year due to the prominent position played by the officeholder, North Carolinians lose. We deserve better than that.

Further, ads confined to information about the program could be used for years to come, regardless of the current officeholder.

Elected state government officials with important information to share with constituents should confine their public service ads to the facts, saving taxpayers money by creating ads that are informative, don't have to be shelved in election years, and have a lifespan greater than a political minute.

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A Public-Service Announcement

Related info:
Common Sense Foundation