Douglas Internet Campaign Ad Attacks Clavelle

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(Host) An advertising war is taking shape in the gubernatorial race. Governor Jim Douglas released an Internet ad on Tuesday that slams his Democratic opponent’s record on taxes.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) One day after the Douglas camp accused Democratic candidate Peter Clavelle of waging a negative ad campaign, the Republican unleashed an attack on Clavelle. The 30-second spot shows a driver pulling up to a fast food restaurant labeled Clavelle’s. A voice at the drive-through offers a menu of various tax hikes.

(Sound from Douglas ad)
(Server) “Well, how about higher gas taxes?”
(Driver) “Gas taxes? Are you nuts?”
(Server) “An inventory tax? What about a beer tax?”
(Driver) “Who’s running this place?”
(Server) “How’s about a serving of Pete Clavelle’s super-sized income tax?”
(Jingle) “Higher taxes at Pete Clavelle’s!”

(Dillon) Douglas campaign chairman Neale Lunderville says the ad will first be distributed through e-mail. But a similar version will appear soon on television. According to Lunderville, this is the first Internet ad used in a Vermont campaign. However, online advertising has been widely used in this year’s presidential contest.

(Lunderville) “We are certainly borrowing a page from the national playbook. But it’s an effective one. It allows us to get our message out for a very low cost, really just the production of the ad.”

(Dillon) Lunderville says the ad is based on research that combed through 15 years of Clavelle’s policies and statements. The research-driven strategy proved effective two years ago when Douglas used statements by Democrat Doug Racine to accuse his opponent of flip-flopping on the issues.

But the Clavelle campaign says the ad is unfair and negative. Spokesman B.J. Rogers:

(Rogers) “I think it’s nearly comical that the Douglas campaign could call Mayor Clavelle’s television advertisement a negative ad and then turn around and release something as sort of shamelessly negative as this Internet ad.”

(Dillon) Back-up material supplied by the Republicans shows that the ad compresses a decade of Clavelle statements to imply that the Burlington mayor is ready now to raise a half a dozen different taxes.

Rogers says the ad takes Clavelle’s positions out of context. Lunderville, the Douglas chairman, defends the technique.

(Lunderville) “We are not saying right now that this is all stuff that’s currently on the docket. What we’re saying is that his record in Burlington shows that time and time again he goes right to the tax menu to try to raise something.”

(Dillon) Taxes, Lunderville says, will be a central them in the Douglas campaign against Clavelle in the months to come.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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