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Political Ad Season Prescription: A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

September 9, 2008

Charleston, WV – "Buyer beware" applies to political ads as well as normal advertising. West Virginians are being encouraged to be skeptical about political messages they see and hear unless they know who paid for the ad--and even then, there may be "money secrets."

A campaign has been kicked off to remind voters to look at where the money for political advertising is coming from. Roy Smith, secretary-treasurer for the West Virginia State Building Trades Council, says his group is encouraging scrutiny because millions of non-traceable dollars backed big ads in 2004, and he expects the same again soon.

"It will come from groups that people may not know. We just want to reinforce to the public that if you don't know who they are, then don't believe what they say."

Smith says sometimes group names listed as "sponsoring" an ad are just marketing ploys, not real organizations that can be researched.

"We're seeing groups with really good-sounding names, something that anybody would support, but you can't trace those groups. You don't know where the money's coming from."

The West Virginia Legislature passed a law to require the political advertising money trail to be made public, but the law is in court. Some have questioned if the law interferes with constitutional rights to freedom of speech.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WV