Republican ad for special election targets Culver, borrowing

UPDATE: Curt Hanson has already posted a rapid response at his campaign website.

Two and a half weeks before the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90, Republican Stephen Burgmeier’s campaign launched its first television commercial:

The producers fit quite a few misleading statements into one 30-second ad. The visual suggests Iowa has taken on “a billion dollar debt,” and the voice-over emphasizes the word “billion,” even though the I-JOBS infrastructure bonding initiative was for $830 million.

The commercial accuses “Governor Culver and his allies” of borrowing “almost a BILLION dollars to pay their bills.” However, the I-JOBS program was created to fund infrastructure projects and has nothing to do with meeting state government’s ongoing spending obligations. (Click here for a breakdown of how the money will be spent.)

During this recession, several other states have been forced to borrow money to pay their bills, but Iowa is borrowing for capital investments. Credit analysts and national institutional investors understand the difference, even if Iowa Republicans don’t. That’s why “investor enthusiasm and high market demand” drove down the interest rate on the I-JOBS bonds.

Next, Burgmeier’s ad shows a man saying, “That’s money taxpayers are on the hook for,” implying that taxes will go up to repay the debt. In fact, existing gaming revenues will provide the approximately $43.2 million in annual payments on the bonds.

The ad begins with a voice-over asserting that “red ink is rising in Des Moines” and later shows a woman saying, “Stop the red ink.” Those statements, along with the cartoon of red ink drowning Culver and the capitol, wrongly suggest that the infrastructure borrowing is deficit spending.

The second part of the ad promises that Burgmeier will vote for a new budget law “to make it harder to waste tax dollars.” I’d like more details about how such a law would work, and I’d also like Burgmeier to specify which of these investments he considers wasteful.

The ad promises Burgmeier will “serve as a check and balance to Governor Culver’s runaway spending” and closes by saying Burgmeier will bring “balance and spending restraint back to our government.” Iowa Republicans may believe Culver is very unpopular in district 90, or they may have decided to run against him in order to rile up their base. It’s notable that the ad never uses the word “Republican” and doesn’t identify the candidate’s political party. I guess the outside interest groups running the Burgmeier campaign don’t have much confidence in the Republican brand to carry the day.

The Iowa GOP didn’t announce the size of the ad buy, which networks would run the ad or which programs have been targeted. If you live in the viewing area for this district, let us know whether you’ve seen the ad, and if so during which television shows. If you prefer not to post a comment here, you can send me a confidential e-mail at desmoinesdem AT Please also report on any radio ads you’ve heard.

I’m curious to see whether this will be Burgmeier’s only television commercial or if his campaign will mention other issues, including same-sex marriage, in later ads.

Having spent no time in this district lately, I have no idea whether Burgmeier or Democrat Curt Hanson has an edge. Political scientists will tell you that as a general rule, the party out of power does well in low-turnout by-elections and special elections. Both Democrats and Republicans are working hard to get out the vote in district 90. State GOP Chairman Matt Strawn and some other Republicans view this race as a must-win.

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