The pro-Proposal 2 campaign to end gerrymandering announced today that 19 radio stations across the state have pulled misleading campaign ads by a group that’s trying to preserve the status quo process of drawing legislative district lines.
A right-wing group known as Protect My Vote has been running ads that claim the independent redistricting commission that would be created under Proposal 2 would have a “blank check” to spend as much money as they choose.
The ads were taken down by a wide array of stations, including in Ann Arbor, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Saginaw. So far, no Detroit area stations have followed suit. The decisions to reject the ads were based on legal arguments made by the group Voters Not Politicians, which successfully launched a petition drive to put the issue on the November ballot.
Those same ads were chastised by the fact-checkers at Bridge Magazine. Bridge’s “Truth Squad” found “several whoppers” within the 60-second ads that distorted the ballot proposal. As a result, Bridge rated the ads “foul,” rather than fair or misleading.
“(The) new ad uses a combination of scare tactics, exaggeration and falsehoods to reach unsubstantiated conclusions,” Bridge determined.
What’s perhaps most disturbing about these ads is the emphasis on money, not on the disreputable gerrymandering process controlled by politicians.
The ads claim that the citizens commission — consisting of five independents, four Republicans and four Democrats – would amount to a “massive new bureaucracy.” The anti-Prop 2 commercials also crassly assert that taxpayers would “be paying for a whole new lifestyle” for these 13 commissioners’ temporary service after new Census figures are released in 2021.
In fact, the commissioners would be paid a minimum annual salary of $39,825, which certainly does not amount to a new lifestyle. True, the commission’s redistricting process would be awarded a $4.6 million budget that is about five times the expense of the current process. But the highly partisan status quo involves politicians meeting behind closed doors to draw districts and then cramming those maps through the Legislature for approval with barely any discussion.
The Proposal 2 approach would involve numerous public hearings as part of a thoroughly transparent process. Any attempt to boost salaries or the commission’s budget would face approval from the Legislature and a potential veto from the governor.
The basic budget for redistricting set by Prop 2 represents about 0.1 percent of the state General Fund budget. That is not a financial hardship for taxpayers.
Meanwhile, what was not mentioned in these radio ads is that Michigan is one of three states ranked as the most gerrymandered in the U.S., meaning the squiggly lines drawn by self-serving politicians distort election results in favor of one party or the other, depending on who is in power.
Another key factor in the Prop 2 campaign debate is that a conservative group with ties to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her wealthy west Michigan family has pumped $1.2 million into funding the negative ads. The plan is to expand beyond radio ads to TV commercials in the coming days.