About Promoting Yourself On The Public Dime
This Friday, the 64th annual South Shore Frolics will kick off in Bay View. The Frolics, put on by the Bay View Lions Club, is a true local treasure. If you've never attended, do yourself a favor and check the event out this weekend.
To help defray the costs associated with staging the Frolics, the Lions Club puts out a booklet containing ads purchased by local businesses. Several local politicians also take out ads which have the dual effect of supporting the Frolics - and promoting the individual politician who runs the ad.
This year's book contains ads from Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski, State Reprentatives Jon Richards and Christine Sinicki, State Senator Chris Larson and Congresswoman Gwen Moore. The ads for all five of these politicians contain disclaimers indicating that they were paid for out of campaign funds. You know ... "Authorized and paid for by ... "'
The book also contains a full page ad featuring Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic (including instructions on how to properly pronounce her name) and a half page ad featuring Milwaukee County Supervisor Jason Haas. Interestingly, in contrast to the ads run by the other politicians, the Dimitrijevic and Haas pieces do not contain disclaimers indicating they were paid for with campaign funds.
It seems to me that there are four possible explanations: (1) the ads were given to the Supervisors for free by the Bay View Lions Club; (2) the two Supervisors paid for the ads out of their own pockets; (3) the ads were paid for with campaign funds but the appropriate disclaimers were somehow omitted; or (4) the ads were paid for with public funds.
Candidly, I find options 1 and 2 to be highly unlikely. Similarly, while I suppose it's possible that campaign money was used to buy the ads, it would strange that the legally required disclaimers would be omitted if this were the case. Given all this, my best guess is that public money was used to purchase the ads.
In any event, yesterday morning I reached out to the spokesperson for the Milwaukee County Board to try to find out what was really going on here. Over 24 hours later, my questions haven't been answered. I suppose I could file an Open Records request but that's really not the point ...
You see, I really don't care if Marina Dimitrijevic paid for her ad with public funds. After all, the Frolics is a great local event and she does represent areas served by attendees.
The truth is that politicians have been using the perks of their office to promote themselves and communicate with voters for as long as their have been politicians.
Still, how does this square with efforts to stop Sheriff David Clarke from running Public Service Announcements on radio and television featuring his voice and/or his image? At least in Clarke's case, he's trying to impart useful information instead of pure promotion.
The point of all this is that if the County Board is serious about changing ethics rules to stop Clarke from using public money to run PSAs featuring his voice , Supervisors also need to stop sending constituent newsletters promoting their agendas and buying ads in programs with public money (if that's what happened).
Again, I think the whole controversy involving Sheriff Clarke is really nothing more than continuation of a vendetta on the part of a couple of Anti-Clarke Supervisors - in particular the seemingly increasingly unhinged Pat Jursick.
However, if the County Board really wants to stop public officials from promoting themselves on the taxpayer's dime, perhaps it needs to look into a mirror.