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Ad Watch

Arnold Schwarzenegger released two new ads Monday. One, a 30-second spot, was released by Californians for Schwarzenegger, his gubernatorial campaign committee. It is the sixth television advertisement released by the campaign. Both ads are running statewide, and the committees have purchased about $2 million in airtime for them.

September 24, 2003

Title: Deficit

Producer: Don Sipple, Sipple Strategic Communications

Script: A slot machine labeled "California Indian Casinos" appears on-screen, then the camera pans down as the slots stop on "$120,000,000" and the words "Paid for by Californians for Schwarzenegger" appear. Schwarzenegger's voice is heard saying: "Indian casino tribes play money politics in Sacramento: $120 million in the last five years." Then Schwarzenegger, in a beige sport coat and white shirt with no tie, appears on-screen and speaks directly into the camera: "Their casinos make billions, yet they pay no taxes and virtually nothing to the state. Other states require revenue from Indian gaming, but not us. It's time for them to pay their fair share. All the other major candidates take their money and pander to them. I don't play that game. Give me your vote and I guarantee you things will change."

Accuracy: The ad is correct in describing the massive role of Indian tribes in state politics. Since 1998, they have spent more than $120 million on California politics, the bulk of it on propositions to make gambling legal on Indian land. They are the largest donors to the recall race. Schwarzenegger has pledged not to take money from the tribes, although he has taken money from other major industries in the state. The tribes are giving money to his two principal recall opponents, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock. Gov. Gray Davis also has received tribal money, though some tribes have soured on him. Tribal sovereignty makes them exempt from taxes and most laws. The tribes are obliged to contribute about $130 million from casino profits into two state funds; one of those funds is supposed to ease casinos' effects on state government, but local officials complain that it doesn't begin to cover the effects of such casinos on public services. Schwarzenegger does not say in the ad how, given tribal sovereignty, he could change this system.

Analysis: The ad reflects a shift for Schwarzenegger, who has long pledged to run a positive campaign. The candidate and his wife, Maria Shriver, have been described as deeply opposed to negative campaigning, which has been increasingly urged by Schwarzenegger's staff of political professionals. Schwarzenegger has made gibesat Davis, Bustamante and McClintock before, but never in an ad. While politicians often leave negative campaigns to surrogates or, in the case of TV commercials, unseen announcers, Schwarzenegger himself delivers the criticism. That carries risks; while attacks often hurt rivals, they often hurt the poll ratings of the attacker as well. Schwarzenegger opens himself up to criticism that he is hypocritical, having accepted tribal money for his after-school initiative campaign last year. With their casino profits, the tribes are likely to respond with anti-Schwarzenegger ads of their own.

Compiled by Times staff writer Joe Mathews

Los Angeles Times

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