Adwatch: An Analysis of Political Ads

Published Apr 8, 2010. By Mary Orndorff. In Birmingham News (Alabama).

GOVERNOR'S RACE: Television commercial from Bradley Byrne, running for the Republican nomination for governor

WHAT THE AD SAYS

''The federal government has gone too far. They breached the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This crazy health care legislation that will kill businesses and kill jobs.''

ANALYSIS

Even though he's running for a job in Montgomery, Byrne's 30-second spot taps into the anti-Washington mood this election season. Whether the health care law violates the 10th Amendment is an unsettled legal question that is just now starting to make its way through the courts.

The 10th Amendment, known loosely as the states' rights provision, says powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved for the states, and was written as a way to limit the powers of the federal government.

Several state officials, including Alabama Attorney General Troy King, have joined a lawsuit that argues, in part, that requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is not a power the federal government has. Several legal scholars have raised doubts about the states' rights argument. The governor of Arkansas says the 10th Amendment claims are reminiscent of when states resisted civil rights laws in the 1950s and 1960s, ultimately unsuccessfully.

Byrne's ad does not mention the other legal argument by the states, that health insurance is not a form of interstate commerce that can be regulated by the federal government. The White House has said it is confident the law will be upheld as constitutional.

WHAT THE AD SAYS

''They're spending hundreds of billions of dollars borrowing that money from foreign countries and mortgaging our children's future.''

ANALYSIS

As of March 2009, foreign investors held $3.265 trillion of the publicly held debt, a historic high, according to the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan fiscal policy organization. The coalition reports that foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities have increased by more than $1 trillion since 2000. On April 5, the Treasury reported that the publicly held debt was $8.3 trillion of the total national debt of $12.7 trillion.

WHAT THE AD SAYS

''As governor I will stand up against Washington's efforts to control businesses in Alabama and hurt businesses in Alabama. Enough is enough. It's time to push back. As governor of the state of Alabama that's ex-

actly what I'll do.''

ANALYSIS

State governors can sometimes choose to reject federal funds and the strings that go along with them, but there would be consequences. For example, if a governor believes that the expansion of Medicaid under the health care law is harmful to his state, he can withdraw the state from the Medicaid program.

In Alabama, ending the $5.3 billion program would mean about 1 million people instantly would be without health insurance. Gov. Bob Riley also rejected incentives from Congress, in the stimulus bill, to expand the state's unemployment benefits.

Statistically, Alabama is very dependent on the federal government. For every tax dollar Alabama sent to Washington, it got $1.66 back, the seventh-highest amount in the country in a 2005 study by The Tax Foundation. The ratio is an indicator of the high level of poverty in the state, but it also includes spending on regular services such as road building.