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Issues and Voices that Matter January 12, 2012

Political Ads

Political Ads

Altamonte Springs mayor Pat Bates discusses her recent encounter with attack ads in her re-election campaign and Dr. Rick Fogelsong, political science professor at Rollins College comments on the need for increased transparency to identify the sponsors of shadowy electioneering communications organizations. These independent political organizations can raise unlimited funds in the attempt to influence even local elections. Length: 18:33

(Produced, reported and edited by Desta Horner)


In her re-election campaign in November 2011, Altamonte Springs mayor Pat Bates was the subject of a series of political attack ads. These mailed ads and robo-calls were sponsored by an electioneering communications organization or ECO. They accused the incumbent mayor Bates of “wanting to raise the gas tax, supporting Obama’s plan to increase the national debt” and of being “too scary for Altamonte Springs.” (see the link below at Central Florida Political Pulse to see one of the flyers). Mayor Bates’ opponent did not pay for these ads. The ads originated from an outside group headquartered in Tallahassee who targeted Mayor Bates because of her position as president of the Florida League of Cities. Voters in Altamonte Springs reelected Ms. Bates to her position as mayor.

Electioneering communications organizations, sometimes referred to as “527 committees,” can raise and spend unlimited funds from donations by individuals, corporations, unions and lobbyists. Unlike the $500 limitation on donors to a particular candidate’s campaign, ECO’s can accept checks in any amount from a donor. However while they may not spend money in support of a specific candidate, they may advertise against the opponent. This leads to a negative tone and attack-style in the ads. (For information on the rules for these organizations see the link below to the Florida Department of State handbook.)

The activities of these groups are protected by the constitutional right to free speech. However, Dr. Richard Fogelsong, professor of political science at Rollins College, asserts that it is important to monitor these groups through increased transparency. Fogelsong believes the names of donors should be more readily available so that voters and the media can identify the source of the funding and judge the validity of the claims in the ads.

It is unusual for these electioneering communications organization to play a role in attempting to influence the outcome of local municipal elections in a small town like Altamonte Springs. However between 2005 and 2010 spending by these organizations in Florida has grown by 53%. (For additional information of the growth of independent groups in Florida see the link below.)

Principal Speakers

Pat Bates, Mayor, Altamonte Springs (photo - CMF Public Media)
Patricia Bates
Mayor, Altamonte Springs, Florida

web | Florida League of Cities

Dr. Rick Fogelsong, political science professor, Rollins College (photo - CMF Public Media)
Dr. Rick Fogelsong
Professor of Political Science at Rollins College

web | bio

Additional Feature Information

Extended Interview

Pat Bates, Mayor, Altamonte Springs (photo - CMF Public Media)
Patricia Bates with Desta Horner
Mayor, Altamonte Springs, Florida

Length 17:58

Dr. Rick Fogelsong, political science professor, Rollins College (photo - CMF Public Media)
Dr. Rick Fogelsong with Desta Horner

Length 23:07

3 Responses to “Political Ads”

  1. Such an interesting twist on negative attach ads. Mayor Bates perspective is so interesting. Usually, candidates don’t get a chance to refute the negative issues. I hate negative ads and find them to be such a turnoff but I know, in the back of my mind, I get the message that’s sent out. All citizens should be more responsible in making sure the truth is told — especially when choosing the elected officials who represent us.

  2. Constance Bennett says:

    Fascinating critique of present day politics at the local level in Florida…the give and take of the q and a was a welcome relief from the canned responses of many politicians. When candidates do respond spontaneously, it generally means trouble for their election possibilities..

    Thanks to Prof. Fogelsong and Desta Horner for reminding us that through transparency and research by our news media, it gives us citizens some chance to make better informed decisions at the ballot box.

  3. Karen Almond says:

    Mayor Bates, Great interview. Thank you for educating the public with regard to these ECO’s. I applaude you for taking the high road. Congratulations to you on your re-election.

    Karen Almond

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