The backers of Amendment 72, a $300 million a year tax hike on tobacco products, recently released a new commercial and it has some wondering if the campaign, run by Governor Hickenlooper’s PR firm, OnSight, might have broken the law.
The ad depicts a group of kids smoking in a park to underscore the campaign’s premise that this tax hike will help prevent kids from smoking. There’s just one problem – actually two problems. “Kids” (those under 18) aren’t legally allowed to buy cigarettes, thus, the tax would not apply to them, so a tax increase would not prevent them from smoking as claimed by the campaign. Whoops.
But here’s the real kicker. Did the ad folks behind Amendment 72 give kids cigarettes? Why do kids have cigarettes in the ad? Are those actually kids? Why are they portraying kids as smoking? Doesn’t that encourage kids to smoke?
Regardless if the guys running the Yes on Amendment 72 campaign actually broke the law, there’s still some shady dealings going on. The truth is that this campaign – to raise hundreds of millions exempt from the taxpayer bill of rights (TABOR) – is just another crap sandwich to taxpayers from the folks who brought Colorado the infamous Connect for Health Colorado marketing money pit. This is nothing more than an attempt to enrich PR firms, like OnSight, at the expense of taxpayers.
According to a memo from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the work paid off for E-Squared Communications, a thinly-veiled nom de guerre for public affairs firm SE2, which ran the tobacco tax hike campaign in 2004. The grant awards from 2015 showed that E-Squared collected (or will collect) at least $6 million of the available $14 million in contracts over a three-year period alone.
Perhaps OnSight is hoping for a similar payout – voters should extinguish these fantasies.