Tuesday, May 21, 2013
If you're looking for an exaggerated ad this campaign season, you've found possibly the best example yet.
This ad supports the campaign of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, against Republican challenger Kevin Raye, the state senate president from Perry. It focuses on spending overseen by Raye for renovations to Republican offices in the State House.
In all, the ad is among the most misleading so far this campaign season. We're calling its statement of fact false.
"One of Raye's first acts was to decorate the Republican lounge and put a private kitchen in his office for $20,000 dollars."
As this claim is made, a picture of an unimpressive kitchen flips to a picture of a sparkling, futuristic one, with an island in the foreground and a large table in back. Raye is pictured smiling in a hard hat and safety glasses, and a tape measure stretches across the screen's bottom.
But the ad employs misleading pictures and overemphasizes the luxury of rooms in question.
"They're not pictures of the real kitchen," said Michaud campaign spokesman Dan Cashman.
The "private kitchen" is actually a nook kitchenette in Raye's office with a sink and small under-counter refrigerator. The "lounge" is two connected fourth-floor rooms, 425 and 427, used by Senate Republicans and staff.
In an email, Cashman wrote "it's not about the photos, it's about the cost, for which we have the invoices."
How much did it cost? In the kitchenette, the fridge cost nearly $618, according to Michaud's data. Construction related to that part of the room cost nearly $8,443. Electrical work in that area cost nearly $5,115. Add that up and you get just over $14,175.
But David Boulter, executive director of the Legislative Council, the Legislature's administrative arm, said though Raye authorized the construction of the kitchenette, Boulter authorized the electrical work.
"That was my call," Boulter said. "I'm not even sure the president was aware of it."
He said the electrical work was discovered to not be up to code when the area was being considered for the kitchenette. It would have been necessary even if plans for the kitchenette were halted, according to Boulter. That said, it's hard to put Raye on the hook for that portion.
According to Michaud's data, about $8,880 was spent on the "lounge," or Rooms 425 and 427, but Boulter said his figures show the number was actually $8,550.
Room 427 is a converted committee room with cubicles used by Senate Republican staffers. Room 425 is a bleak, hot conference room with ugly, gray workstations and two wooden tables in the middle. One table is severely gouged. There's no real lounge here, and it's not really decorated.
Of the money spent in the room, virtually all of it was spent on moving furniture into and out of the rooms, along with doing work to remove and re-configure workstations, according to Michaud's data. Boulter said no new furniture was purchased --- what's there was moved in from storage or other places in the building.
Verdict: The ad seems designed to overstate the luxury of the rooms. The ad's claim that the "lounge" was decorated is wrong. Moving and adjusting isn't decorating. The "private kitchen" is nothing of the sort, and it seems a stretch to attribute electric work there to Raye. Add in misleading kitchen visuals --- stock photos that imply a before-and-after look at the actual room --- and you've got a whopper.
We rate this ad false.
Michael Shepherd can be reached at 621-5632 or at:firstname.lastname@example.org