Be Alive ad campaign funds misused? 12-20-09

Be Alive in Longmont, a contractor to the City of Longmont, received City taxpayer funds to advertise a partisan ad on December 20, 2009, in the Longmont Ledger and possibly in other media venues.

I find the fact that City taxpayer money has been used to pay for an advertisement extolling the virtues of a partisan politician, who happens to be our present Mayor, Mr. Baum, is personally offensive. In addition, I believe it is also an unethical use of taxpayer funds for political purposes, even if that was not the intention of the ad. The City has just come out of a rather ugly political campaign in which Mr. Baum was a candidate. Why is the City spending its limited funds to advertise to the public the virtues of a politician in that campaign, or any politician? It’s not an ad that says that the Mayor is doing his job as a Mayor. No, it’s an ad saying what an exceptional guy he is, a (quote) “community pillar with generations of support” and other personal superlatives. The Mayor’s campaign manager couldn’t have spun it any better, and our tax dollars should not be used to further any politician’s career. At the very least, it creates the appearance of impropriety and is unacceptable on that basis alone.

Furthermore, the ad uses our taxpayer dollars to say that Mayor Baum takes his family to two particularly named Longmont restaurants. So, now our taxpayer money is not only favoring a particular politician, it is also favoring two out of the dozens of great restaurants that exist in Longmont. Again, the misappropriation of taxpayer funds for biased purposes, unacceptably favoring certain Longmont businesses over others, is reprehensible.

I don’t believe the City could, on its own, use City funds to run such a biased and inappropriate advertisement. I certainly don’t think the City can avoid responsibility for this ethical lapse merely by running the money through a contractor. I have never heard of either the federal or the state governments running ads saying what a great person the present incumbent was, and I don’t think the City government has any greater right to do this than the other branches of government

For all the above reasons, I urge the City’s Attorney’s Office to investigate the use of taxpayer funds for this inappropriate ad. Further, I think the moral murkiness surrounding this ad provides a valuable insight into why Longmont’s Fair Campaigns Election Committee should be maintained and strengthened. As our Founding Fathers knew so well when they created our Constitution, politics – and power – brings out the worst in people, in everyone. I believe we need all the help we can get in making sure Longmont’s campaigns are fair and above-board.

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