LEWISTON – A controversial advertisement from a national Republican group on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Chandler Woodcock has been pulled from at least two television stations over “inaccuracies” and for being “grossly misleading.”

WABI-Channel 5 and WVII-Channel 7, both in Bangor, pulled the advertisement from the Republican Governors Association on Friday after receiving a complaint from Gov. John Baldacci’s campaign.

The complaint was also filed with other television stations in the Bangor and Portland media markets. As of Friday afternoon, only WABI and WVII had stopped running it, although other stations were considering the complaint.

The ad makes a number of assertions that were contested by the Baldacci camp and considered legitimate complaints by the stations.

The ad says that Maine has had “the nation’s highest tax burden for 10 consecutive years,” has the country’s eighth-highest gasoline tax and has a $733 million budget gap.

On the first two issues, the truth is in shades of gray, said Mike Young, the general manager for WABI.

The claim of a $733 million budget gap, however, is “inaccurate and grossly misleading,” Young said.

“At the present time, we actually have a budget surplus,” Young said. “That’s not a shade of gray. It’s an inaccuracy.”

According to Young, WABI decided to pull the advertisement after evaluating information presented by the Baldacci campaign and the Republican Governors Association.

Maine’s constitution requires the state to have a balanced budget. The RGA cited a report by the Government Performance Project for the $733 million budget gap figure. That report, however, was written in early 2005 before the state had passed its budget.

The state finished the fiscal year with a surplus and has about $150 million in reserve accounts.

The evidence on the other two issues could be argued, Young said, but considered with the budget gap claim the ad couldn’t be allowed to stand as it is.

The Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank, ranks Maine’s state and local tax burden per capita as the highest in the country. If local taxes, which include property taxes, are excluded, Maine ranks significantly better and has actually improved its ranking in recent years. And, citing U.S. Census Bureau numbers, Young said that Maine’s tax burden was ranked 40th overall or 19th on a per-capita basis.

Finally, WABI considered the claim that Maine has the eighth-highest gasoline tax in the country. According to the American Petroleum Institute’s July 2006 survey, Maine’s gasoline tax ranks 15th-highest, Young said.

“We’re forced to have to make value judgments,” Young said. “But when there are factual inaccuracies and the ad is grossly misleading, like this one is, then we pull the ad.”

Mike Saxl, who made the complaints to the TV stations on behalf of the Baldacci campaign, said he understands that the stations are put in a difficult situation by political advertisements.

“You can debate some of the rankings,” Saxl said. “But you can’t debate that Maine has a provision in the constitution that demands a balanced budget. Every two years, come hell or high water, you have to balance the budget.”

The ad was still posted at www.rga.org, early Friday evening. A call to the organization went into voice mail.

The ad is the second produced by the Republican Governors Association that has run in Maine supporting Woodcock. The first ad began running last week and presented a positive biographical portrait of Woodcock.

According to both the Woodcock campaign and the Republican Governors Association, the advertisements were not coordinated with the Woodcock campaign, which said it had no knowledge of them before they began airing.


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