Originally created 10/07/04

Ad is deceptive, Burns campaign says



SAVANNAH, Ga. - An elderly man crumples to the sidewalk as the announcer says U.S. Rep. Max Burns voted seven times to cut funds for rural hospitals.

That's the beginning of a new TV ad in the 12th Congressional District, which pits freshman Republican Burns against Democrat John Barrow.

The 30-second spot is the most graphic in a series of increasingly testy ads aired by both sides.

Democrats consider the 12th, which stretches from Savannah to Athens and Augusta, one of their best chances in the country to win back a House seat this year.

In what's become a ritual for both candidates' camps, Tim Baker, Mr. Burns' campaign manager, lashed out at the ad.

"Running deceptive ads about Max Burns is bad enough," Mr. Baker said, "but to frighten old people, and open wounds for anyone who has lost an elderly loved one is ... despicable.

"Barrow can say whatever he wants about voting records, even though his ads are intentionally deceptive. But to try to scare the elderly out of their vote is unacceptable."

Mr. Baker demanded the ad not run until the pictures of the man collapsing can be removed.

The ad also says Mr. Burns voted against letting people get lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada and to cut funding for cancer care. In each case, it lists one of five pieces of legislation and dates the campaign claims Mr. Burns voted on them.

Roman Levit, Mr. Barrow's campaign manager, defended the ad's use of the collapsing man.

"It's labeled a dramatization," he said. "I don't think it's scare tactics. It's meant to dramatize the opening line of the ad, 'When a life is at stake, everything matters. How close is the hospital, and can you afford the care?'

"For Max Burns to complain about frightening people is just laughable. He's just using his complaint about this dramatization to divert attention from his votes. The only thing frightening about this ad is Max Burns' record."

But what his record is - or what it means - is not obvious.

In some cases, the bills dealt with broader subjects than the issue tagged by the Barrow ad.

One of the bills, for example, was a catch-all measure providing ongoing funding for much of the federal government. Mr. Levit said that, because it provided less funding for Medicaid, it indirectly cut funding for rural hospitals.

On importing drugs from Canada, Mr. Burns voted against a bill Mr. Barrow prefers.

He also voted for a proposal that contained a provision blocking importation of drugs. But the bulk of the bill is funding for agriculture, rural development, the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies.