Blunt in federally funded voting ads

The secretary of state’s spokesman defends the ads as a civic message.
Friday, July 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:53 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

Secretary of State Matt Blunt spent almost $48,000 in public money on statewide newspaper advertising that includes his name and picture, urging voters to turn out for Tuesday’s primary.

The ad is to make a return appearance in Missouri’s daily newspapers on Monday — the day before Blunt faces five little-known opponents in the Republican primary for governor. Blunt used federal funds to pay $47,984 to the Missouri Press Association to place the ads twice through Tuesday’s primary in 295 daily and weekly newspapers across the state, said Mike Sell, MPA’s advertising director.

Blunt’s spokesman, Spence Jackson, who designed the ad, said it was appropriate to include Blunt’s photo and name in the publicly paid ad because of its civic message.

“We just felt like that personalized it a little bit more, so people would know who’s talking,” Jackson said. “Election officials should do all they can to encourage voter participation.”

The two-columns wide, six-inches deep ads were provided to newspapers from Blunt’s office. Sell said it was the first time in memory that a secretary of state placed a statewide ad buy using public money to promote voter turnout.

The ads include Blunt’s black and white photo, a drawing of an American eagle with wings spread wide, and the bold-faced headline: “WE WANT YOUR VOTE COUNTED!!!”

The ad says: “Missouri’s chief election official, Matt Blunt urges every eligible Missourian to vote in the August 3, 2004 primary election. Your county clerk’s office or local election board stand ready to assist you in making your voice heard.”

County clerks and, in the two largest urban areas, local election boards, actually run the polling places and count ballots.

Blunt’s ad goes on: “If you have any questions about how or where to vote, or Missouri’s election laws, please contact your local election authority, or call this statewide toll-free number: 1-800-NOW-VOTE.”

The Columbia-based MPA said the first round of weekly newspaper ads ran last week, with the second round appearing in this week’s editions.

Ads appeared Thursday in many daily newspapers, and will be repeated in the dailies on Monday, according to the press association, which places ads in state newspapers.

Jackson said funding for the ads came from a $60 million federal appropriation to Missouri as part of the Help America Vote law, enacted in 2002.

He said Blunt is spending about the same amount, roughly $48,000, on radio and television announcements promoting voting through the Missouri Broadcasters Association. Jackson said the television ads do not show Blunt.

A script provided by Blunt’s office has the TV announcement delivered in a bipartisan way: the speakers are Glenda Mott, a Republican who is county clerk of Laclede County, and Sharon Turner Buie, the Democratic director of elections in Kansas City.

Jackson also provided criteria for spending the federal money on voter education, a framework he said was developed with bipartisan input from public meetings. But nothing in the criteria suggests Blunt’s name and picture should appear in the newspaper ads.

It’s not unusual for incumbent politicians to promote government programs and themselves at the same time.

For example, Democratic Gov. Bob Holden and his wife, Lori, are among bicyclists seen on the Katy Trail in television public service announcements promoting state physical fitness programs.

Jackson said State Treasurer Nancy Farmer, a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate, was pictured in newspaper ads from early July promoting her office’s Unclaimed Property Division.

Blunt is heavily favored in Tuesday’s GOP gubernatorial primary. His primary opponents are Karen Lee Dee Skelton-Memhardt, of Wildwood; Jennie Lee Sievers, of Jackson; Martin Lindstedt, of Granby; Jeff Killian, of Jackson and Roy W. Lang, of Davisville.

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