Analysis of Fong's first radio ad

Republican gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong is introducing himself to Iowans with a 60-second radio ad (audio here). Like Fong’s campaign website and early media interviews, this ad focuses on restoring “the Iowa dream” his family has lived.

Fong reads the script himself, beginning with a few details about his father’s life. Fong says, “After tax cuts in ’61, the U.S. was booming. Nelson Fong, a Christian in Hong Kong, was drawn by the promise of freedom to the United States in ’63.” By the way, tax rates after those 1961 cuts were still substantially higher than today’s rates, which didn’t slow down the U.S. economy during the 1960s. But I digress.

About halfway through the ad, Fong shifts from his family’s story to how he sees the American dream slipping away. Echoing the false talking point we hear from other Iowa Republicans, Fong claims, “We have a state government that borrowed almost a billion dollars to pay its bills.” Of course, the I-JOBS bonding initiative was for infrastructure projects, not for ongoing government programs. Like national credit analysts and institutional investors, Fong should understand the difference between borrowing for capital investments and borrowing to pay bills.

Fong then promises that as governor, he would “end the use of taxpayer money to fund lobbyists and veto any budget that is not balanced.”  

The first point refers to a recent Des Moines Register report showing that  government (“state agencies, municipalities, county agencies and associations where member dues are paid by taxpayers”) spent approximately $1.8 million of at least $13.7 million paid to lobby the Iowa Legislature during the past year. A lot of that expense is for state employees who answer legislators’ questions about various proposals. Republicans would be happy to let business groups spend unlimited amounts lobbying the legislature, with no opportunity for state agencies to discuss the broader implications of industry wish lists. Sounds to me like a prescription for more giveaways like Iowa’s new nursing home law.

Fong obviously doesn’t want anyone to view him as the moderate in the GOP field. This ad ends with a female voice saying, “Paid for by Iowans for Christian Fong, conservative Republican for governor.”

UPDATE: Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan called on Fong to take down this “materially false and misleading” ad. I’ve posted Kiernan’s statement after the jump.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 24, 2009

Des Moines, August 24 — Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan today called on GOP candidate for Governor Christian Fong to halt the airing of “materially false and misleading” radio advertisements.

“We are calling on Fong to take down this ad on his own before any other action is taken,” Kiernan said.

Despite the fact that the Culver/Judge administration has a strong fiscal record, balanced the budget every year and raised the state’s bond rating to the highest possible AAA rating, Fong has released a 60-second radio spot that asserts “we have a state government that has borrowed nearly a billion dollars to pay its bills.”

“To suggest money borrowed for the I-JOBS initiative means the budget is out of balance is false,” Kiernan said.  “It’s like telling Iowans who have home mortgages that their personal finances won’t be balanced for 30 years.  It makes no sense.”

“Facts are facts,” Kiernan said. “We have balanced the budget every year, and at the same time we are making smart and needed investments in the future.”

“Because  I am confident someone with Mr. Fong’s experience has a very solid understanding of the state’s finances, I can only assume someone on his team made a factual error and the ad will be taken down promptly,” Kiernan said.

The Chairman noted the Iowa Democratic Party just last week successfully used the legal process to halt the airing of a false and misleading attack ad that had been airing on television in support of the Republican candidate for Iowa House in the upcoming District 90 special election in Jefferson County.

Kiernan said the claim in the Fong ad is patently false and shows a radical misunderstanding of the state budget.  I-JOBS is Culver’s $830 million bonding plan that is creating jobs, stimulating the economy and repairing Iowa’s aging road and bridge infrastructure.  “The fact is, Iowa’s bills are paid,” Kiernan said Monday.  “We had a balanced budget for the fiscal year just ended and will have one for the coming year.”

Iowa is uniquely positioned to weather the national economic crisis, Kiernan said. “We were recently named the 8th fastest growing economy in the United States, and we have the 4th best business climate,” Kiernan said.  “That’s not the picture of a state that had to borrow to pay its bills.”

Kiernan cited as an example the state of California, which had a $26 billion budget deficit for this year and put out $470 million in IOUs before making major cuts to state programs and services in an effort to balance the state budget. “To lump Iowa in with states like California is fundamentally incorrect, misleading and false,”  Kiernan said.  “Fong is being dishonest.”

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