Thursday, September 14, 2000

Chabot, Cranley get tough in ads

TV spots raise PACs, spending as attack issues

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        All voters in the 1st Congressional District have to do is turn on their TVs to be caught in the cross fire of charges and countercharges from U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot and his Democratic opponent, John Cranley.

        The dueling attack ads deal with where Mr. Chabot, the three-term incumbent, gets his campaign dollars and how Mr. Cranley would spend taxpayers' dollars if elected to Congress.

        The high-volume ad campaign, eight weeks before voters go to the polls, clearly shows that Mr. Chabot is taking seriously the challenge from a 26-year-old first-time candidate and that Mr. Cranley is not the roll-over-and-play-dead sacrificial candidate some Democrats feared he might be.

        The Chabot campaign has booked about $500,000 of television advertising through the November election; the Cranley campaign has spent about $70,000 on this week's television buy.

        The Cranley campaign fired the first shot in the “attack” ad war, with a 30-second TV spot in which Mr. Chabot's head is transformed into a “Pac Man” video game figure gobbling up dollars — making the point that, in the last four congressional campaigns, Mr. Chabot has raised nearly $1.7 million from political action committees (PACs).

        “He's taken nearly $2 million dollars from special interest PACs — tobacco, drug, HMO and insurance companies,” the announcer intones, as the Chabot head gobbles away.

        The Cranley ad points specifically to a $1,500 contribution from Humana Inc., the HMO which in July announced it is dropping 11,000 Cincinnati-area Medicare members.

        “The idea that Steve Chabot is beholden to anybody is ridiculous,” said Chabot campaign spokesman Brian Griffith. “People in the 1st District know Steve. They know he is his own man.”

        The Chabot campaign has fired back with its own 30-second TV spot, which touts Mr. Chabot as a fighter for “tax relief for all taxpayers.”

        But it also does something incumbents generally avoid doing, unless they believe they are in a tight race — it mentions Mr. Chabot's lesser-known opponent by name.

        “Now Cranley wants to let foreign nations keep our money they promised to repay,” The ad says.

        Mr. Griffith said the TV spot refers to a statement Mr. Cranley made in a July 16 debate in Green Township.

        Mr. Cranley said that the U.S. should give “limited” support to Jubilee 2000, a call by the Roman Catholic Church for industrialized nations to help Third World countries by forgiving debts.

        Franklin Leonard, a spokesman for the Cranley campaign, said it was an “outrageous distortion” for the Chabot campaign to create the impression that Mr. Cranley does not want countries who owe the U.S. money to pay it back.

        “It's just not true,” Mr. Leonard said. “It shows how desperate they are.”

        Mr. Chabot and Mr. Cranley have two more scheduled head-to-head debates in the 1st Congressional District, which takes in most of Cincinnati and the city's western suburbs.

        Mr. Chabot, who was swept into office six years ago when the GOP took over control of Congress, faced then-Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls two years ago and won with 53 percent of the vote.


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