Reality Check: Controversial Anti-Doyle Ad Won’t Run in Madison

A cartoonish political TV ad criticizes Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and tries to tie him to a convicted state employee. The ad is airing in every media market in Wisconsin, except Madison.

Steve King, the chairman of the Coalition for America’s Families, said his group was trying to reach voters that were receptive to his message. Dane County is a heavily Democratic area that strongly favored Doyle in 2002, WISC-TV reported.

The ad is similar in style to the popular Internet political parodies produced by during the 2004 presidential race.

It starts out with a game-show like announcer stating, “It’s time to play, ‘What’s Up With That?'”

The ad goes on to feature a cartoon reporter peppering a cartoon Doyle with questions over his involvement in an illegally awarded travel contract. The podium he speaks from is labeled “Travelgate.” Doyle’s actual voice is used in the answers.

There is a series of three questions and answers:

Reporter: Governor Doyle, Georgia Thompson has been convicted of steering a state travel contract to two of your biggest campaign contributors.

Doyle: There was no evidence at all that anybody made any suggestion to her.

Reporter: Governor, these guys gave your campaign $20,000.

Doyle: The contributions you talk about came in several months after the contract.

Reporter: But they gave you $17,000 days after the contract went into effect.

Doyle: I’m not going to comment about the investigation.

WISC-TV found the style of the ad to be misleading. The questions from the fake reporter are not the same as the real questions the governor was asked. Doyle gave the answers after a June 13 press conference. It was his first appearance after Thompson was convicted.

But, none of the questions are the same as what Doyle was asked. The last answer, in particular, was Doyle’s response to the question: “Do you have an attorney?” It was not related to the question over campaign donations.

While a WISC-TV analysis found the style misleading, many of the specific statements or claims are true.

Thompson was convicted of steering the travel contract to Adelman Travel. Two of its executives gave Doyle $10,000, which is the maximum allowed under the law. Also, $17,000 of the $20,000 was given months after the contract was awarded and just days after the contract became effective.

But, federal prosecutors didn’t have a direct link to Doyle or Department of Administration Secretary Marc Marotta.

Steve King, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV the ad isn’t running in Madison because the group is trying to reach voters that might be receptive to the message.

UW political science professor David Canon said the group might be trying to reach voters that haven’t heard much about the Thompson case and thus haven’t formed an opinion about what happened. He believes they’re also targeting an area where there are more swing voters.

“This group that’s running this anti-Doyle ad figures, ‘Why waste our time and money in Madison? We’re not going to win enough people here.’ So they go elsewhere in the state where it’s going to be more competitive,” Canon said.

King said the ad will run for about two weeks. His group hopes to air other ads on Doyle’s record before the fall election.