ST. LOUIS (AP) - Two of Missouri's top elected officials have recently starred in television ads. But they didn't have to pay for them with campaign money, which has prompted complaints.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/yL2wSk) reported online Tuesday that Treasurer Clint Zweifel has aired a public service announcement promoting a college savings program, and Attorney General Chris Koster has aired one urging people to call his office with tips about Medicaid fraud. Both officeholders are Democrats who are up for re-election this year.
Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Lloyd Smith contends the public service announcements come close to being publicly funded political campaign ads.
"They come as close to a political campaign ad as you can probably come, and it pushes the envelope on what is usually thought of as a PSA," Smith said.
Spokesmen for both Zweifel and Koster said the ads promote important causes and have cost taxpayers little or nothing. Previous Republican and Democratic elected officials have had similar ads.
Zweifel appeared in an ad that highlights the Missouri Saving for Tuition program, which the treasurer's office supervises. The savings plan's board approves the marketing plan, and UPromise Investments that manages the savings program pays for the ads under its contract. Last month's ad cost $232,909 for airtime and $116,046 for production. It features Zweifel and his family - wife Janice and daughters Selma, 14 and Ellie, 12.
Jon Galloway, a spokesman for Zweifel, said the ads have helped boost awareness of the college savings program. He said that by appearing in the ad, Zweifel "brings credibility to the financial product."
The colleges savings plan ads over the past three years have cost $673,575 for airtime and $205,517 for production. Under Republican predecessor Sarah Steelman the ads cost $874,974 for airtime and $256,414 for production from 2006 to 2008.
Koster has appeared in a 30-second ad that urges people with tips about Medicaid fraud to call a hotline. The $774 ad airs primarily in southwest Missouri but also has played in St. Louis and statewide when there is unbooked ad time. The attorney general's office paid $10,000 to the Missouri Broadcasters Association but has been guaranteed four times that much air time. Koster spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said only $2,500 for the ads come from the state's general revenue and that the rest was funded through federal money.
Gonder said a similar ad that ran in southwester Missouri last January prompted 12 calls about Medicaid fraud. There were between one and four calls from that region in January 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com