Strange Brew From the Republican Governors Association

The Washington-based Republican Governors Association is running a series of clever ads calling to mind the Miller Lite “great taste, less filling” ad campaign from years ago, and attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett. Responsible voters should be suspicious of ads brewed up by this Washington-based group.

The television ads, set in what appears to be a normal Wisconsin bar, posit that the bar’s patrons are split about whether Barrett’s tenure as mayor of Milwaukee is worse because of “more taxes!” or “less jobs!” The ad accuses Barrett, a Democrat, of losing jobs as Mayor of the City of Milwaukee, implicitly endorsing his Republican opponent for Wisconsin governor, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.

Great Ad RGA, but . . .

First, Wisconsinites should be skeptical of any Washington-based group of political insiders trying to dictate what is in their best interests. The RGA is spending $65 million this year to influence governor races across the country, and their goal is purely strategic -- governors elected this year will redraw congressional districts in the process known as "redistricting." Whichever party draws the lines will do so to maximize their electoral outcomes, which results in our contorted patchwork of congressional district maps. The RGA is not funding these ads because they care about creating jobs in Wisconsin, preserving our natural resources, or promoting good governance. They simply want to maximize power.

Second, looking more closely at these ads should make voters even more suspicious of any message coming from the RGA. In the “More taxes! Less jobs!” attack ads, RGA not only recycles Miller Lite’s old slogan, but features a Miller Lite beer tap in the bar (the only brand-name tap in the ad). This cannot be an accident, or mere coincidence -- it is likely product placement purchased in the form of RGA contributions. But like the RGA, Miller is not interested in creating a better Wisconsin.

For Wisconsin, Miller is Less Filling

Although Miller was founded in Milwaukee, its headquarters are now in Chicago, and has been moving jobs out of the state for years as it shifts production elsewhere. In 2008, Milwaukee lost 200 jobs when Miller moved its control center to Chicago, despite the best efforts of both Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Scott Walker, the Democrat and Republican candidates for governor, respectively.

(On a side note, contrary to the assertions of anti-tax advocates like the Republican Governors Association, a “business friendly” city does not necessarily correlate with low taxes—Chicago is a much more expensive city with much higher taxes than Milwaukee.)

Miller has sued over copyright infringement in the past, and would certainly have done so here if they did not support the ad’s message. While the RGA has not released its latest campaign contributions, Miller has consistently given significant donations to the RGA in past election cycles, and some Miller executives have contributed personally this election cycle.

If Miller really cared about Wisconsin, it would have made an effort to keep jobs in the state. If Miller (now known as MillerCoors) is funding the RGA’s efforts to influence Wisconsin voters, it is doing so as part of a cold calculation to elect Republicans who will promote policies that are friendly to multi-national corporations. It has nothing to do with promoting a positive future in Wisconsin.

Regardless of whether Miller had anything to do with this TV spot, the ad offers proof of the RGA’s hypocrisy. Accusing Barrett of losing jobs in one sentence and giving free publicity to the company that has significantly contributed to unemployment is a little inconsistent.

OWI: Oh, What Inconsistencies!

But the RGA’s other campaign activity has shown the group to be very inconsistent. As mentioned above, the group is spending $65 million across the country, includes ads opposing Colorado’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. The Colorado ad blames Mayor Hickenlooper for losing 800 Republic airline jobs to Milwaukee, and actually uses footage from one of Barrett’s own ads touting his success at bringing these jobs to Wisconsin. Watch the hypocrisy unfold here.

The RGA praises Barrett for bringing jobs to Wisconsin in one ad, and criticizes him for losing jobs in another, while offering product placement to one of the job-losers.

Despite the Republican Governors Association associating itself with beer, campaign messages from the RGA are better taken like tequila -- with plenty of grains of salt. We'll pass on the lime, though -- the 2010 campaign season is already bitter enough.