(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – A spokesman for Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall is rejecting any suggestion that her participation in radio ads to promote a children’s contest involving a college savings program is aimed at helping her re-election campaign.
But a campaign consultant for her GOP opponent called Marshall a hypocrite for engaging in the same practice she criticized her predecessor for doing, and for “pushing the envelope” by running ads after the close of filing for office.
The radio ads encourage children from kindergarten to fifth grade to participate in the contest, the theme of which is: “I want to go to college so I can become a______.” Six students will receive a prize of a $529 gift to be used to open a college savings plan account or to enhance an existing account.
Steve George, public information officer for Marshall, said the $12,000 radio campaign was approved by the College Savings Plans Board.
“It takes about two seconds for her to say, ‘This is state Treasurer Kate Marshall’ out of a 30-second or 60-second commercial,” he said.
The ads are aimed at children who can’t vote, George said.
The college savings programs are managed by the treasurer’s office but do not involve any state funds, he said. Parents who open accounts pay fees to fund the operating costs of the program.
Ryan Erwin, a campaign consultant for Steve Martin, a former state controller who is running against Marshall as a Republican, said Marshall, “is rapidly becoming a do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do case.”
“She may be the biggest hypocrite in Nevada politics today, and that is a high bar to reach,” he said.
Erwin said Marshall was a vocal critic when former treasurer, now GOP Lt. Gov Brian Krolicki, appeared in college savings ads. While not suggesting Marshall has violated any laws, it is a violation of common sense, he said.
Using a state managed program to get her name out in an election year, even in a modest radio ad campaign, is still hypocritical, Erwin said.
Krolicki faced more than just criticism over the ads he appeared in. The commercials became part of an investigation into Krolicki’s handling of the college savings program by Democrat Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto after concerns were raised by Marshall. The ads stopped in 2006 before Krolicki filed for lieutenant governor.
Krolicki was indicted in December 2008 on charges of misallocating funds for the program, but earlier this year a Clark County district judge dismissed the case and Masto declined to pursue the matter further. Krolicki said the prosecution was political and that he had done nothing wrong.
The use of the airwaves by state elected officials to promote various programs has also been raised by the Nevada Republican Party in an ethics complaint against Secretary of State Ross Miller, who appeared in a TV ad promoting the U.S. Census. The ad featured fighters with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Miller is also running for re-election.
Miller told the Las Vegas Sun the allegation in the complaint was “silly.”
Ciara Turns, communications director for the state GOP, said the Marshall radio spot issue has not yet been reviewed, but added it could become part of an ethics complaint in the future.
Both Marshall and Miller also face GOP complaints that they violated campaign laws by listing their state offices as contact points for their campaigns. Marshall said the criticism is baseless because the Secretary of State’s office inadvertently posted the incorrect phone number for her campaign contact. Miller called the complaint a frivolous campaign ploy.