Reality Check: Lautenschlager Attacks Falk In Ad

Attorney General Changes Ad After Threat of Lawsuit

Published On: Sep 05 2006 08:52:16 AM CDT   Updated On: Sep 06 2006 02:39:54 AM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

Incumbent Democrat Peg Lautenschlager has changed part of a TV commercial after being threatened with a lawsuit. A WISC-TV analysis called the questioned claim "misleading."

In her first TV ad, Lautenschlager spends half the 30 seconds telling viewers about her record and half attacking her Democratic challenger, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.

At the end of the ad, a male narrator says, "Falk's taken thousands from special interests like big oil brokers for her campaign." At the same time, the ad shows three donations -- from Veridian Homes for $10,000, from American Transmission Company for $1,000 and from Bulk Petroleum for $2,000.

WISC-TV finds this "misleading."

First, only one of the three has anything to do with oil. Also, by coupling company names with specific dollar amounts on the screen, WISC-TV finds it gives the viewer the impression that those companies donated the money to Falk's campaign. Direct donations from corporations to candidates is illegal in Wisconsin.

The donations are actually by individuals who run or work for those companies. All three donors are past campaign contributors to Falk when she ran for county executive or governor.

Plus, one donation, $10,000 from Veridian Homes executive Jeff Rosenberg, was returned to the donor the same month it was given because the donor had already given his legal limit to other candidates.

But, WISC-TV finds it's worth noting the $2,000 from Bulk Petroleum owner Darshan Dhaliwal was given just weeks after Dhaliwal was charged by Lautenschlager's Department of Justice for price gouging at his gas stations.

ATC threatened to sue the Lautenschlager campaign for implying it, as a company, gave money to Falk.

The ad was changed to include the names of the individual contributors and not just the companies. The changed ad and will start running on WISC-TV Wednesday.

In another claim, Lautenschlager's ad says Falk has "never prosecuted a single criminal. Not one."

WISC-TV finds this claim "needs clarification."

The ad conveniently leaves out Falk's 14 years of experience in the Department of Justice. Falk was the Public Intervener. She protected environmental laws and sometimes even sued other state agencies. She's tried some cases but those weren't criminal cases.

Earlier in the ad, a narrator sings the praises of the current AG. At one point, the narrator says her department is "catching more internet sex predators than anyone in the nation."

This claim "needs clarification."

Wisconsin is one of 46 special task forces organized by the federal government. Among those state and local government agency task forces, Wisconsin is first with 120 arrests last year.

The ad goes on to say Lautenschlager has "taken on drug companies, big oil and polluters to protect us."

WISC-TV found this claim to be "true."

She has sued drug companies over inflated prices, gas retailers for hiking prices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and polluters in Wisconsin.