Arizona bracing for avalanche of misleading political ads

Posted: Updated:
Democrat Hiral Tipirneni is running against Republican Debbie Lesko. (Source: YouTube) Democrat Hiral Tipirneni is running against Republican Debbie Lesko. (Source: YouTube)
Political ads often go negative, even though most voters don't like them. (Source: YouTube) Political ads often go negative, even though most voters don't like them. (Source: YouTube)
The goal of political ads, whether they are positive or negative, is to create a lasting impression on the voter. (Source: YouTube) The goal of political ads, whether they are positive or negative, is to create a lasting impression on the voter. (Source: YouTube)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The special election for Congressional District 8 is less than two weeks away, and Valley television viewers are seeing something they aren’t used to seeing: political ads for a race that is supposed to be a safe Republican seat.

Democrat Hiral Tipirneni is running against Republican Debbie Lesko. President Donald Trump won the district by 20 points. But the “blue wave” that has turned other safe Republican seats into Democrat victories has conservatives worried.

[RELATED: CD 8: Republican Lesko, Democrat Tipirneni to face off for House seat]

And this is just the first race of what may turn out to be a huge year for political spending in Arizona.

“I think we are going to have record amounts of money spent to influence the vote,” said Stan Barnes, who is a political strategist with Copper State Consulting Group.

[RELATED: Why Arizona Democrats are going all-in on this Trump district]

Barnes says Arizona’s open Senate seat, the governor’s race, competitive House seats, a renewable energy initiative and an effort by Democrats to win some state House and Senate seats are combining to put Arizona on the political spending map in a way it has never been before.

[READ MORE: Sex, campaign funding scandals upend Arizona US House race]

And you can expect many of those ads to be negative.

“Negative ads generally don’t backfire. Negative ads generally work,” said Barnes.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

Talk to 10 voters and eight of them are likely to tell you they hate negative ads and they wish the campaign ads would be truthful. But there is not much recourse for candidates who have been the targets of attack ads, even when those ads are false.

“Political speech has the highest amount of First Amendment protection, compared to any other type of speech,” said Dan Barr, who is a First Amendment attorney with the law offices of Perkins Coie. (Barr is also the attorney for the Arizona First Amendment Coalition, where this reporter serves as president.)

[RELATED: GOP winner of Arizona primary expected to win US House seat]

Barr says candidates rarely file libel lawsuits against each other because the time frame to complete a case can stretch out much longer than a political campaign. But that doesn’t mean there is no recourse whatsoever.

“If someone believes a political ad is false they can take to social media. They can run other ads. They can complain to the station if they feel that they can prove that the ad is false, and ask that the ad be taken down. But other than that, there isn’t much recourse,” said Barr.

The goal of political ads, whether they are positive or negative, is to create a lasting impression on the voter.

“They can be funny. They can be shocking. They can be entertaining. They can be colorful. They can be odd or interesting. But if they don’t stay with the voter, then you’re throwing away your money,” said Barnes.

And with so much attention focused on Arizona this season, you’d better get used to seeing these ads. Just don’t expect them to be completely accurate.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. In October 2016, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School at Purdue University Global. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

Hide bio