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The Issue:  Whether to allow a casino in Oxford County.

The Ad:   Vote Yes on 2 For Maine, in favor of Question 2.

The Question: “Do you want to allow a certain Maine company to have the only casino in Maine, to be located in Oxford County, if part of the revenue is used to fund specific state programs?”

Ad title: "Fear"
Length: 30 Seconds
Produced by: CD&M Communications, based in Portland, Maine.
TRANSCRIPT
Narrator:

Here’s why you can’t believe anything CasinosNo says:  Their own spokesperson was caught on tape admitting their only strategy is to scare you.  Quote: “Fear always overcomes common sense, always.  Casinos talk about jobs then we come along and say there’s crime, prostitution…whatever.”  Endquote.

On the Screen:

"Training Seminar by Rising Tides, 2006 USM Library."

Narrator:

How can you trust CasinosNo when they admit using fear to convince you casinos are bad for Maine?

On the Screen:

See transcript at: voteyeson2formaine.com

Narrator:

Don’t fall for the scare tactics.  On November 4th, vote yes on two for Maine.

Barbara Cariddi
MPBN's Barbara Cariddi researched the claims made in this political advertisement by Vote Yes on 2 For Maine, the group promoting ballot Question 2, which would allow a Las Vegas company to build a casino resort in Oxford County.
ACCURACY

“Their own spokesperson was caught on tape admitting their only strategy is to scare you.”

 

According to “Vote Yes on 2 For Maine,” the quote this ad is based on was recorded at a USM seminar.  The “spokesperson” mentioned is Dennis Bailey, who heads the Portland public relations firm Savvy, Inc. and currently serves as a spokesman for the anti-casinos group CasinosNo!   The long-time gambling critic is a founder of CasinosNo! which mounted a successful campaign in 2003 to defeat a ballot proposal by Maine’s Indian tribes to build a casino in Southern Maine. 

How Bailey was “caught on tape” at the seminar, by whom, and whether he has been quoted accurately have become a matter of dispute in the campaign.  “Vote Yes” spokeswoman Pat Lamarche says several people were taping the seminar, and she doesn’t know who recorded the version on which the ad is based.  Dennis Bailey says the tape was provided by Seth Carey, the Rumford lawyer who formed Evergreen Mountain Enterprises, the original promoter of the casino initiative.  Carey dropped out of the campaign after facing unrelated allegations of professional misconduct. 

Contacted at his law office in Rumford, Carey said he was “not going to comment” on whether he attended the seminar or provided the tape.  Carey said the tape “is what it is.”  Bailey, he said, “is trying to make the campaign about me, and I don’t want to play that game.”

"Quote: “Fear always overcomes common sense, always.  Casinos talk about jobs then we come along and say there’s crime, prostitution…whatever.  Endquote.

The accuracy of the quote is impossible to verify without an opportunity to listen to the original, unedited tape. Efforts to obtain that tjape from the “Vote Yes” campaign were unsuccessful.  On its website, the “Vote Yes” campaign provides what it calls a “verbatim” transcript of Bailey’s comments, which were made in reference to the 2003 casino measure being promoted at that time by a group called “Think About It.”

Bailey: "Racino is an industry term. We try not to use that word. Think About It's pro-casino message was 'jobs.' Casinos No didn't want to engage them on their message so we came up with our own message which was, 'it's a bad deal' and 'kiddie casinos.'"

Participant: "Did you use scare tactics to create a feeling of gloom and doom and crime and prostitution and all that?"

Bailey aide: "Yah, we got aggressive..."

Bailey: "The real question is, did we win!" [Laughter]

Participant: "But did you use fear tactics sort of unfairly?"

Bailey aide: "Yes."

Participant: "So would you call them lies?"

Bailey aide. "Well not necessarily lies, but (unintelligible)."

Bailey: "You do a campaign and mention terrorist to scare the bejesus out of them. Casinos talk about millions of dollars a year and then we come along and say there's crime, prostitution, whatever..."

Bailey: "Fear always overcomes common sense. Always.

Commenting via email, Bailey said the quote is inaccurate and “totally” out of context.

“[I]t puts words in my mouth that I did not even say….For example, the transcript on their website has me saying, "You do a campaign and mention terrorist to scare the bejesus out of them." What I can be heard saying on the recording is, "Why do you think George Bush's campaign focused on terrorism, to scare the bejesus out of people, mostly women in the home, based on their polling." I wasn't even talking about the CasinosNO! campaign.”

“Then they have me saying, "Fear overcomes common sense." First of all, I don't even believe that, so I would never utter it. What I say on the recording is "Fear overcomes favor," a significant difference. I was making the point that casino promoters come in and offer money and jobs. We point out the downsides to casinos, accurately, which involve crime, bankruptcy, lost jobs, etc., and voters respond more strongly to these messages than the promises of money from the other side. Fear overcomes favor.” 

“They've made it sound like I'm saying that fear messages will overcome a credible message of common sense, which I don't even believe. They're trying to say that their message is just common sense while I'm defeating it with scare tactics and made up claims, which is not at all what I believe and not at all what I said.”

On October 21, 2008, Bailey and Lamarche discussed the ad, and questions about its accuracy, in a Question 2 debate on WGME-TV in Portland, anchored by Gregg Lagerquist. 

EFFECTIVENESS
Amy Fried, University of Maine

Amy Fried

University of Maine

  • Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Associate Dean for Research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

This Yes on 2 ad is an unusual spot in that it is a negative ad in an issue campaign which does not confront any arguments. If this had been an ad for a campaign involving candidates, it would be characterized as personal, negative, and focused on character. The ad promotes the idea that the No on 2 advocates and campaign are not trustworthy. It has a somber tone and makes the case by presenting quotes from a workshop which included anti-casino leaders and staff.

Maine people prize clean politics and if they believe that the No on 2 campaign tried to trick them, they would be very unhappy about it. On the other hand, if these allegations are seen as unfair attacks, this ad would backfire on the pro-casino cause.

There are several aspects of the ad which could undermine its political effectiveness. One is that it never counters the implied arguments against casinos, such as crime. There is no evidence presented on whether there is a link between casinos and crime. Second, the ad doesn’t play the recording of the statements made and so it is hard to determine if they have been taken out of context and thus have been misinterpreted. For example, it is possible that the highlighted statement that “Fear always overcomes common sense” might have been said by a casino opponent about the casino proponents’ arguments about the need for casinos to deal with Maine’s economic problems. Finally, the ad does not put forth a positive argument for casinos, for a positive impact on the economy and jobs.

On the whole, it is hard to advance a character-oriented attack against an issue unless there is a history or narrative about the group’s lack of credibility.

Ron Schmidt, University of Southern Maine

Ron Schmidt

University of Southern Maine

  • Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Specialties: Political Theory, Racial and Ethnic Politics and Urban Politics.

"Fear," the new ad by Vote Yes on 2 for Maine, attempts an interesting reversal of political narrative. Casinos in previous elections have been represented as unreliable and potentially dangerous institutions that are being foisted on the state by some group that is depicted as alien to Maine or opposed to Mainers'
interests. The narrative of 'Fear' is that the *opponents* of casinos are the unreliable and vaguely menacing group. The quoted text suggests that Casinos No! is attempting to manipulate voters' emotions; the grainy, black and white visual is presumably footage of Question 2's opponents, plotting against the electorate.

This is an interesting maneuver, akin to the words "for Maine" in the group's name: to position the proponents of the casino as the more wholesome local organization, threatened by outside forces and illegitimate tactics. It is also an attempt to deploy the strategy the group is ostensibly opposing. Shaky, vague images, mapped onto the questioning of one's opponent's real intentions, are classic strategies in negative advertising. "Fear" is both about the attempt
to frighten voters and a genuine attempt to frighten voters. Yes on 2 for Maine argues that voters "can't believe anything" said by a political organization that employs scare tactics; this could be interpreted as a warning against supporting either side of this issue. What is left unsaid is what Question 2 offers "for Maine."


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