(Steve Sebelius) – The state Republican Party has filed an ethics complaint against Secretary of State Ross Miller, who appears in a television ad urging Nevada residents to participate in the 2010 census. It won’t likely go anywhere; Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki’s appearance in ads for the state’s college savings program when Krolicki served as treasurer was reviewed and approved by the Ethics Commission.
But Ryan Erwin, a campaign consultant to Krolicki, says there’s a double-standard, inasmuch as Democrat Miller has received much less criticism for his star-turn in the census ad than Republican Krolicki got for his appearances in the college savings ads. What’s good for the Republican goose should be good for the Democratic gander, he says.
And he’s right.
As the No. 1 critic of Krolicki’s appearance in the college-savings ads, I should note there are some facts that differ between the two situations. Krolicki took personal charge of advertising dollars, outside the state’s regular accounting system, and overspent the budget in the process, an audit later showed. (He was indicted for mishandling those funds, but the case was dismissed late last year.)
But the basic nature of what Krolicki did is exactly the same in Miller’s case: A state official appearing in state-paid TV ads, which tends to constitute free publicity for a person who needs publicity in order to get re-elected someday. And, in both cases, it’s unseemly.
There’s no doubt that incumbency has its perks. Krolicki can hold a news conference and get a gaggle of reporters pretty much any time he wants; his opponents, not so much. Miller can schedule a briefing on election procedures, and he’ll get himself on TV and in the newspapers. His challengers have no such ability. That’s just the way it is.
But these ads are something else entirely. They’re only tangentially related to holding office, and there is absolutely no need whatsoever for an elected official to appear therein, especially when those officials are running for re-election.
In Las Vegas and Clark County governments, there’s a policy that says an elected official cannot appear on city- or county-run television channels or in government-published newsletters while they are running for office (defined as that period of time from when a person files for re-election until Election Day). The policy was enacted after criticism — some from me — that such appearances were essentially a taxpayer-financed promotion of a political candidacy.
Perhaps a similar policy could be enacted at the state level.
Such a policy would not only reduce the disadvantage for challengers, but would also protect elected officials from ethics complaints and the appearance they are using their office (and state funds) in order to buy free publicity that cannot but help their re-election. This would, of course, apply to all elected officials, regardless of party. Because what’s wrong for a Republican is also wrong for a Democrat.
(Mr. Sebelius writes the SlashPolitics blog and is editor of Las Vegas CityLife)