Worley's ad campaign scuttled


By Phillip Rawls
Published May 5th 2006 in Decatur Daily News
MONTGOMERY Secretary of State Nancy Worley's plans for a voter education advertising campaign before the June 6 primary, where she's a candidate, got blocked Thursday by the Legislature's Contract Review Committee.

Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, called the radio and TV campaign a waste of public funds. At his request, the committee delayed the contract proposal for 45 days, which is the maximum action the committee can take.

Adam Bourne, attorney for the secretary of state's office, said the 45-day delay would block the ad campaign for the primary election.

Worley, a former Decatur High School teacher, did not attend the committee's meeting. But, in an interview later in the day, the Democratic officeholder said "partisan political reasons" were behind the committee's action. Worley said she is required by law to do voter education, and she will look for other methods to carry out that duty.

In a written proposal presented to the committee, Worley said she planned to pay Birmingham media buyer Brenda Bagley $281,717 for a one-week ad campaign before the primary election June 6 and $282,136 for a one-week campaign before the general election Nov. 7.

Bagley would place the ads on radio and TV stations throughout the state. During those two weeks, Worley's message would be seen daily in TV stations' early morning news shows and evening newscasts. Worley herself would be seen in at least some of them.

Bourne said the ads are needed to remind voters about recent changes in Alabama law, including the need to take identification to the polls, and to educate them about new changes, including the availability of equipment in all polling places to help the handicapped cast ballots.

He said the entire $563,717 would go for ads. Bagley would get a fee from the stations where she placed the ads and would not get any fees from the state, he told the committee. The money would come from interest earnings off federal funds the state has received to implement the federal Help America Vote Act, he said.

Galliher said Worley spent about $700,000 in the 2004 election to educate voters about Alabama's voter ID law and more education isn't needed.

"It's the biggest waste of money," he said.

Worley is opposed by a member of her staff, Ed Packard, in the Democratic primary. The winner will advance to the general election against Republican Beth Chapman, who is currently serving as state auditor.

The committee's action Thursday was preceded by a disagreement a month ago over whether Worley had to submit the advertising plan to the committee for review.

At the committee's request, the attorney general's office said the proposal had to go before the committee because it involves the services of a media buyer to place the ads. If the secretary of state had purchased the ads directly from radio and TV stations, she could have done it without submitting her plan to the legislative committee.

Worley said Thursday that is a possibility, but she doesn't have anyone on her staff trained in buying advertising.

Controversy over election-season ads paid for with public funds is nothing new.

In fall 2002, then-assistant agriculture commissioner Ron Sparks appeared in a $391,000 state ad campaign promoting Alabama farm products. Sparks was the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner, and the TV ads drew criticism from Republicans. Sparks won the general election and is running for re-election this year.