Monday, November 5, 2018

Cohen, Lowery Hit Council Anti-IRV Ad Campaign as "Deceptive"

The officials maintain that a one-sided Council-backed ad series on behalf of a referendum to repeal Instant Runoff Voting is paid for by taxpayer funds but misleadingly purports to be the work of a private PAC.

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2018 at 12:13 AM

click to enlarge Lowery (l), Cohen
  • Lowery (l), Cohen
Two public officials backing the local opposition to Memphis City Council-backed referenda on the election ballot have charged that “the ‘public education’ campaign” endowed by the city council with $40,000 in taxpayer funds “is actually a one-sided advocacy campaign designed to influence rather than educate.”

In a press release, U.S. Representative Steve Cohen of the Memphis-based 9th Congressional district and former council chair Myron Lowery joined with the Save IRV Memphis campaign to contend that a series of ads advocating the repeal of Instant Runoff Voting (also known as Ranked Choice Voting) purport to be originated by a private PAC but are actually the products of the Carter Malone Group, a local advertising and PR agency the council has contracted with.

“They shouldn’t be using our tax dollars to fund a Vote Yes campaign in the first place, but if they do, they should disclose on every ad, email, and piece of literature that tax dollars are paying for it,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “And they certainly shouldn’t imply that it’s all coming from a private group.”

The ads — in both audio and video format — are embedded in an email sent out from “," the Carter Malone Group’s email address, and, as the press release notes, “explicitly push a ‘Vote yes’ message in clear advocacy, without neutral public education.” Deidre Malone, who heads the Carter Malone agency, recently confirmed that the council had asked her to handle the council’s paid publicity campaign on behalf of three ballot referenda, including the one that would repeal IRV.

In the wake of Chancellor Jim Kyle’s decision last week not to issue an injunction against the use of public funding for a one-sided advocacy campaign, Council Attorney Allan Wade used the terms “influence” and “educate” interchangeably in discussing the Council’s plans with reporters.

In the required disclaimer as to the source of their funding, the ads list “Diversity PAC,” a private political action committee — a contention that Cohen, Lowery, and the Save IRV Campaign Memphis committee all insist is purposely misleading. “The voters deserve to know when they’re being lobbied by their own money,” Lowery said. “Anything less than full disclosure is downright deceptive.”

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