Ma. Sheriff Runs Pre-Election “Public Service” Ads


Two weeks before a tough election, Suffolk County, Ma., Sheriff Andrea Cabral has launched a public-service media campaign paid for with taxpayers’ money, reports the Boston Globe. Cabral said the advertising campaign — with 100 signs on subway trains, ads in a dozen newspapers, and 1,800 cable TV spots — is aimed at discouraging crime and has nothing to do with her bid to win election to the office to which she was appointed in 2002. Her opponent, City Councilor Stephen Murphy, said the media blitz, featuring close-ups of Cabral and the words “choose wisely,” is political advertising in disguise. The race will be decided in a Democratic primary Sept. 14. “Those aren’t public-service announcements,” charged Murphy. “Those are political buys using public funds. It’s clearly a misuse of taxpayers’ money.”

Spokesman Steven Tompkins said sheriff’s department officials created the ad campaign in response to the wave of violence that hit Boston earlier this summer. The department spent $5,000 on the ads. But because they were billed as public-service advertisements instead of political, the cost was relatively low, he said. Cabral cleared the campaign with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. But Tobe Berkovitz, associate dean of Boston University’s College of Communications, said a public-service campaign running so close to an election is “exceedingly questionable in terms of ethics and propriety. That really is promoting a candidate. That accrues a real benefit to the incumbent — I’m very surprised.”


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