CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS : Inside the Ads

GOVERNOR

Gov. Pete Wilson released two new television commercials Wednesday. Here is the text of the ads with analysis.

* THE AD: "They are as different as two people can be. On crime, Pete Wilson was the force behind the tough new "three strikes" and "one strike" laws. And he has enforced the death penalty. . . . Brown opposes the death penalty, is supported by criminal defense lawyers, and will appoint more lenient judges. . . . Wilson pushed through tax incentives and cut red tape to keep business and jobs in California. . . . Brown has a plan that will increase taxes and drive jobs out of California."

* THE ANALYSIS: Although Wilson played a key role in the passage of the "three strikes" sentencing measure and signed the bill, the force behind it was Mike Reynolds, whose daughter was killed by an ex-convict. Brown personally opposes the death penalty but has said she will see that it is carried out if she is elected and will appoint judges who believe in capital punishment. Wilson signed a record $7-billion tax increase in 1991. Two years later, he pushed for tax breaks for business totaling about $500 million, including a sales tax exemption for the purchase of new manufacturing equipment. Though his Administration has tried to coordinate government programs to help businesses stay in California, the state has lost about half a million jobs since Wilson took office. The only tax increase in Brown's plan is a 15% excise tax on the sale of ammunition. There is no evidence her plan would drive out jobs.

* THE AD: "Kathleen Brown supports continuing state services to illegals even though it costs taxpayers over $2 billion a year. Another reason we need Pete Wilson as governor."

* THE ANALYSIS: The only major service on which the two candidates disagree is public education. Brown says it would be unwise to expel illegal immigrants from the public schools because the state then would have to deal with 300,000 idle children. Brown, like Wilson, believes the federal government should pay for all the state's cost of serving illegal immigrants.

TREASURER

The two major party candidates in the race for state treasurer are expecting television ads now running to be the deciding factor in their contest. Until last weekend, Republican Matt Fong, a member of the State Board of Equalization, and Democrat Phil Angelides, a developer, had aired only positive ads. But Sunday, Phil Angelides came out with the campaign's first negative commercial, a 30-second spot depicting Fong as a wasteful spender who whiles away his working days as a public official playing golf.

* THE AD: Photographed in a shaky, spontaneous-looking camera style, the commercial opens with a shot into Fong's Board of Equalization office. As an announcer intones: "There are things candidate for treasurer Matt Fong doesn't want you to see," a hand covers the lens of the camera. "Matt Fong spent over $5 million for his new government offices and the building owners gave him free office space for his political campaign," the announcer says. Repeatedly using the hand-over-lens device, the ad goes on to say that Fong "gets a government expense account, drives a free car and is out golfing during working hours." It closes by noting that during Fong's tenure, the board's budget increased $42 million.

* THE ANALYSIS: Fong, who was appointed to the five-member tax board in 1991, did select a new office in a City of Industry complex managed by Majestic Realty Co. The state Department of General Services negotiated a $300,000--not a $5-million--contract to rent the office. The same month the rental contract was signed, Majestic Realty began providing Fong free office space for his campaign. In 1994, the General Services Agency sought competitive bids for a new regional Board of Equalization office and awarded a $5-million rental contract to the low bidder--at the same location and to the same interests as those providing Fong free office space. However, department records indicate that Fong had no role in the selection of that site or the awarding of the contract. Like many officials holding high state offices, Fong is provided travel expenses and a car. He did show on his financial reports that he accepted free golf games on seven occasions, but says that on the days that he played during working hours, he took vacation time. The board's budget is established by the Legislature, which has in recent years provided more money to the agency to hire more auditors to catch tax cheats.

PROPOSITION 186

Both sides of the campaign over Proposition 186, the single-payer health care initiative, have been using television ads statewide. The initiative would, if fully implemented, create a state-run health insurance system designed to replace the current one based on private insurance. Money raised in part by tax increases would be used to dispense more than $100 billion in health benefits annually to more than 30 million Californians.

* THE ADS "FOR": One 30-second spot features representatives from the California Nurses Assn., Consumers Union, the California branch of the American Assn. of Retired Persons and the California League of Women Voters. Each speaks, and as the ad runs, their voices and images dissolve into each other. The ad tells viewers, "Proposition 186 will give each of us complete health care that can never be taken away." It goes on to say, "It was put on the ballot by a million Californians," and, "The insurance companies are spending millions of dollars to kill 186." Another ad involves a series of images of children, one in a wheelchair, two in a sandbox, others in various forms of play. The announcer asks, "What will happen to our children?" and mentions the possibility of their losing medical insurance, making the statement: "We are all at risk" and repeats the statement about insurance companies trying to kill the measure.

* ANALYSIS: Sponsors of the initiative say they chose to present nurses as supporters because nurses are trusted more than insurance companies. With roughly 80% of Californians now holding health insurance, supporters want to persuade voters that their plan is better. The California Nurses Assn. represents about 25,000 nurses, roughly 10% of all California nurses. Though the California branch of AARP endorses the measure, organizations representing retirees from Los Angeles County and state governments oppose the initiative, contending their members would lose benefits if it passes.

* THE ADS "AGAINST": One ad shows a politician with two aides nearby. An announcer says that the initiative would give an "elected politician" the right to ration health care with the statement, "Medical decisions made by a politician . . . for political reasons." A female aide says, "We're out of money . . . we have to cut something or raise taxes." The male aide, holding up a polling chart, responds: "Hip transplants . . . only lose a few thousand votes there. . . ." Another ad shows a woman with her family in a park. She says, "Like most families, we support health care reform. But we can't support this Proposition 186." She goes on to say the initiative "would take away our private coverage and force us into a government-run system headed by an elected politician." She also expresses alarm over the prospects that her California income tax "would nearly double." At the end of the ad, opponents of the initiative are cited that include business and taxpayer groups as well as the Organization of Nurse Executives/California.

* THE ANALYSIS: Though the new system would be headed by an elected officeholder, medical decisions, such as those on hip replacements, would be expressly left with physicians. The initiative would not "take away" private coverage and, in fact, the statement in the ad contradicts what opponents have said elsewhere. Although the initiative would impose tax increases, the ad neglects to say that taxpayers would be relieved of health insurance premium payments and a substantial amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses. One study said that the average Californian would save $550 annually on health care, even with the new taxes. The organization of nurses represents 1,100 nurses who perform administrative duties.

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