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Not By Gift But By Tax

....it's better that way

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, October 27, 2010.

A second ad for a Colorado Republican candidate has been pulled by Channel 9 and perhaps one other station because it's bogus. The first ad, you may recall, was against Congresswoman Betsy Markey, because the ad credited her with a vote made by Ed Markey, Congressman of Massachusetts. That speaks to severe incompetence, first and foremost.

The second ad was against Ed Perlmutter, and charged him with voting for a bill allowing convicted rapists to get Viagra, which was absurd atop being untrue. The bill by a 527 Repub committee claimed it was part of the new health insurance reform bill, and that Perlmutter voted for it. It isn't part of the bill and Perlmutter couldn't have voted for it.

I'm glad to see pro-active action by the media. How did these ads pass muster first time through, though? And were the ads actually pulled with money refunded or just the first buy ran out? Will the stations run ads from the same 527's without scrutiny in the future? The damage is done no matter, and willingly taking money to publicize obvious idiocy under cover of free speech, which isn't the issue, still annoys me. These ads were not subject to variable interpretation and context: they were obviously false, and nothing excuses them being run.

But enough about the damned election. I think Democratic candidates will do much better than those pumping a Republican wave think, but I've been wrong before. It was August of 1973.

Here in Boulder the Damned, the city is trying to formalize the criteria for the selling of naming rights to buildings, rooms, overpasses, and parks. In short, things get named for the famous local citizen or for those who contribute at least 50% of the cost of a building or project. Although as a nation, we all accepted things like Carnegie Libraries, a truly innovative and highly constructive gift by the one time Robber Baron and well deserving to be named in his honor, we feel less warm towards things like Invesco Field on Sundays or watching college football championships at Freddie's Plumbing and Heating Bowl in Pasadena on New Years Day. The difference is obvious: one is an actual elevating and constructive gift that would improve the nation from someone wanting to die having given his fortune away and one is a blatant advertisement for lucre.

Scott Carpenter Park here in Boulder was named for the city's contribution to the original seven Astronauts. That is both good and worthy. But what about those who, having inherited or married money, or just laundered it or even earned it legally, decide to make a gift of something expensive but hideous to the city, say a notionally wanted theater of interest to few, off the tax rolls and expensive to keep up and labor intensive. Would the city be justified - or excused, rather - if they allowed it to be named for that couple? They get a tax write-off for the gift, it's just a business deal to them, often costing them little or nothing.

Think of it this way. Jake Jabs, to take one example, has probably spent enough money on local television advertising over the years that one or perhaps all of the Denver TV stations might feel uncomfortable not having a cafeteria or studio or equestrian statue with lion cubs in the saddle with him; something more or less permanent and in the public eye named for him out of their gratitude. Of course, the money was given so that his name and his company's name might excite a Pavlovian response among furniture buyers to his profit.

A business deal, and there is no nonsense about his devotion to supporting free broadcasting outside of their ability to provide him with an advertising venue. To be doubted he or the stations think of his advertising buys as form of philanthropy.

But somehow it's different if someone wealthy makes, in essence, a bulk buy paid forward through the decades. For years and perhaps centuries, the name would be before the public for which no advertising revenue is collected, atop immediate tax benefit to the donor. Some things should be paid for by regressive taxation, and named for the otherwise unsung but deserving, and governments ought to avoid being overly grateful for that which is selfishly offered under guise of philanthropic nature.

These are public buildings and public parks and public ways, and if someone wants to be a philanthropist let them earn the title by taking the tax break and standing aside. If they insist upon their names graven into stone, it should be treated as what it is: advertising for the business or ego, and nothing more.