While cable television’s talking heads prattle incessantly this week about duplicity in the White House, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander is taking his own message to the airwaves.
Starting this week, Alexander will appear in television advertisements on major cable networks, including CNN and Fox News, promoting the goals of his latest political action committee“We the Parents.” The series of television commercials advocates tripling the federal tax deduction for each child in a household to $8,000. In an interview with the Scene, Alexander said the increased exemption would “make it what it was worth in our parents’ time.”
Alexander said his “We the Parents” PAC is “devoted to the sole purpose of getting government on the side of raising children.” The PAC will begin spending about $200,000 a week on “issue-oriented” advertising, Alexander said.
In one of the commercials, Alexander recalls, at least vaguely, his own childhood, saying that parents “seemed to have more time for us back then. A little more time to help us learn about the world...and ourselves. Maybe that’s because our parents weren’t faced with today’s federal taxes five times higher than they were then. I’m Lamar Alexander. It’s time to put government back on the side of parents.”
Alexander stresses that the television ads “do not advocate voting against anyone, or for anyone, or even mention the word Republican.” But the commercials are nonetheless designed to advance Alexander’s hopes for the GOP presidential nomination. They will be aired on local television stations in 14 states, including the early-primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa. The ads aren’t scheduled to run in Tennessee, and Alexander’s “family-friendly” PAC isn’t registered here either.
“We the Parents” is instead registered in Virginia, a state that, unlike Tennessee, doesn’t limit the amount of money individuals can contribute to PACs. A recent article in the Boston Globe detailed the strategy of Alexander and other presidential candidates who have registered their PACs in states that allow individuals to make unlimited contributions to PACs.
“I’m not sure why I got all the attention, because it’s hardly something unique these days,” Alexander recently told a New Hampshire newspaper asking for his response to the Globe story.
What’s more, Alexander says the frenzy over campaign finance reform is uncalled for. “I believe in free speech and full disclosure,” Alexander said. “I believe the right thing to do is to let candidates raise money and speak out and fully disclose where they got their money.”
Alexander says he disagrees with members of the U.S. House and Senate who support campaign reform legislation. “I think [campaign finance reform] is a creation of people who already have the right to speak to limit the rights of others,” Alexander said. “Most of the United States senators like the idea of restricting all of their opponents from raising money to run campaigns against them. It’s an incumbent protection act, is what I think.”
Down memory lane
As for the governor’s race here at home, Alexander speaks well of Democratic gubernatorial nominee John Jay Hooker, although Alexander strongly supports Gov. Don Sundquist’s bid for reelection and dismisses Hooker’s flagship issue of campaign finance reform as one “most people don’t agree with.”
In 1970, Alexander managed Republican Winfield Dunn’s gubernatorial campaign, which Alexander now describes as an effort “to save the state from John Jay Hooker,” the state’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee that year. “I wanted to help elect a Republican governor, and John Jay happened to be on the other side,” Alexander recalled.
“When I lost the race for governor in 1974,” Alexander said, “and got up the next morning feeling pretty badly, the first telephone call I got was from John Jay Hookerjust really a call of consolation and encouragement.”
In a press conference this week, John Jay Hooker received the formal endorsement of Mike Whitaker, his strongest opponent in the Democratic primary. Whitaker told the Scene last week that he would support Hooker in the reformist’s race to unseat Sundquist in November, but the West Tennessee attorney’s formal endorsement this week gives Hooker’s candidacy the semblance of coalition.
Although the media doesn’t give him much credit for it, Hooker has no shortage of populist support. What his candidacy does lack, however, is the official backing of high-profile political types. It’s not the kind of support he has sought. He has made it clear he wants to run his own race and keep it focused on fundamental political reform. At the same time, he says it wouldn’t hurt to rack up some endorsements and have allies discussing the issues he’s less interested in.
“I think if the [campaign finance] system is reformed, everything else will take care of itself,” Hooker told reporters Tuesday. He praised Whitaker for having been “a good candidate with a good message” and thanked him for expressing a “genuine desire” to help the Hooker campaign.
Hooker said Whitaker’s opposition, for example, to prison privatization and health maintenance organizations are issues that deserve discussion. But he also said he prefers to let others handle those topics while he concentrates on his crusade to keep special interests from dominating the Legislature and the governor’s office.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Whitaker said it had been his “mistake” to “underestimate” Hooker during the primary, adding that he now wants to extend the “breadth” of Hooker’s campaign. “A candidacy based on ideals and principles can and will succeed,” Whitaker said. “Don Sundquist is probably the most beatable incumbent governor this state has ever seen. John is probably the only person who can pull this off.”
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I agree that The Tennessean should have broader coverage; ie> coverage of other religions and…
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