Truth Squad: 'Flagrant Foul' and 'No Foul' on Prop 5 ads

Nov 2, 2012

Political ads are filling the airwaves, but it’s not always easy to know what is true and what is not.

Michigan Watch has teamed up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to sort it out.

Today we look at Proposal 5 ads. That’s the proposal requiring a two-thirds majority of the legislature or a vote of the people for any state tax increase.

We’re going to start out with the proponents of Proposal 5, the Michigan Alliance for Prosperity. They want you to vote ‘yes.’

John Bebow and the Truth Squad reviewed several radio ads the group is running.

“They’re accurately describing recent tax increases and tax shifts that have been backed by Governor Snyder. They accurately state what the average U.S. per capita debt is even though there’s no direct link between that and Proposal 5 which is a state issue not a federal issue. They also make an assertion that if there is a gas tax increase coming in Michigan, it would result in the highest gas taxes in the country. That’s possible. It’s not an absolute fact.”

So far so good, but one of the radio ads got a ‘Flagrant Foul’ from the Truth Squad.

“This may be the most flagrant, erroneous  ad campaign of the year. In one of the ads, it starts out with a radio news broadcast  that sounds awfully real to me.”

Fake news announcer: “Well, Michigan drivers can get ready for more pain at the pump this holiday season, Governor Rick Snyder signing into law today his gas tax hike, giving Michigan the highest taxes on gasoline in the entire nation. Despite widespread public opposition the, uh, controversial measure passed the state House by the narrowest of margins: a single vote.”

2nd Announcer: “It doesn’t have to this way. On November 6th vote ‘yes’ on Prop 5 to protect Michigan taxpayers from unnecessary tax hikes like Governor Snyder’s new tax on gasoline.”

Bebow says making the ad sound like a radio newscast crosses a line.

“It is the very definition of irresponsible, erroneous advertising. I really don’t understand why broadcasters broadcast these ads that are just flat out wrong. Broadcasters who put these ads on the air are taking the money and running and they are not serving their listeners at all. And, this ad should not be on the air.”

The other side.

Turning to the anti-Proposal 5 ads, the group that wants you to vote ‘no’ is Defend Michigan Democracy. It’s running  TV and online video ads. Bebow says he thinks they get a little confusing.

“Some of them start out with Matty Moroun, the bridge guy. That’s Prop 6. What’s he doing in Prop 5? Well, he’s actually been bankrolling some of the Prop 5 proponents for starters. And, secondly, the opponents now of Prop 5 are making him out to look like a bad guy. He’s being villainized as a billionaire who would benefit from Proposal 5 if it passed.”

“Proposal 5 makes it easier for Lansing politicians to protect tax breaks for billionaires like Matt Moroun. But, when millionaires and big corporations pay less, middle-class families pay more. And, when other states passed proposals like 5, it led to higher local taxes and devastating cuts to schools, roads, and public safety.”

Aside from Bebow’s opinion that the ads are a little confusing, he says there’s no problem, no foul on the content of the ads’ claims.

“The tax code will remain unfair and big corporations will pay less and middle-class families will pay more.  All of that is legitimate commentary. There are no factual misrepresentations that we’ve seen in these ads.”

So, to sum up: a ‘Flagrant Foul’ for the supporters of Proposal 5’s fake newscast ad and ‘No Foul’ for the ads from the opponents of Proposal 5.