What the heck did Chris Christie SAY when he was in Michigan last month???
Progress Michigan ran an anti-Rick Snyder digital billboard in Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Allen Park today — Tax Day — as part of the effort to raise awareness of Republican tax hikes on seniors, middle class, and poor Michiganders over the past three years. Actually, it’s more accurate to say they TRIED to run billboards in these cities. Adams Outdoor Advertising, the company that owns the billboards, rejected the contract that involved the Lansing billboard, apparently to avoid upsetting the Snyder administration.
MLive reports that Adams general manager Jason Kitchen denies that they rejected the ad. Instead, he blames it on an “account executive in Ann Arbor” for failing to send them the paperwork in Lansing in time:
Jason Kitchen, general manager of Adams’ Lansing sales office, said he rejected the ad without seeing the artwork — he was finishing up a vacation — and suggested his employees misinterpreted the decision, which he said had nothing to do with politics.
“Oh my gosh, no,” Kitchen told MLive on Tuesday. “Obviously we have political advertising all over our markets and issue advocacy is something that we love to be a part of. I haven’t even really taken the time to interpret this message, but I think (the employees) having seen it, they speculated as to why I wouldn’t run it.”
An account executive in Ann Arbor was supposed to forward a subcontract to Lansing but did not do so until Saturday, according to Kitchen. In order to get the digital billboard programmed by Monday, Kitchen said he would have had to ask an employee to come in on the weekend but ultimately concluded the small ad buy was not worth it.
Kitchen must have gotten on the phone after the MLive article was published with the title, “Company rejects anti-Snyder billboard; email cites desire for ‘good relationships’ with governor’s office” because a few hours later reporter Jonathon Oosting posted this update:
Kitchen objects to the idea that Adams “rejected” the ad: “An ad was placed in the Ann Arbor market and simply did not run in Lansing due to contractual procedure,” he said. “There was no rejection of an ad.”
I’m not sure what a “contractual procedure” means, but this contradicts an email received by Progress Michigan from Adams staff which clearly states that they were rejecting the ad for other reasons. That email reads in part:
We have decided to not accept this contract. It is not in the best interest of Adams, as we are really trying to continue to maintain good relationships with the Governor’s office. I spoke with Jason Kitchen again today, as well as our Real Estate Manager Rhonda Huffman.
It appears that, despite Kitchen’s statement, he DID know about the ad and that there was fear of retribution. It’s hard to read the statement “we are really trying to continue to maintain good relationships with the Governor’s office” any other way. Given that this is an election year and outdoor advertising is a big part of political messaging, perhaps Adams feared the Snyder campaign would choose to go with one of their competitors if they did something to upset them.
Then there is also the fact that Stephen Adams, the owner of Adams Outdoor Advertising, is a big Republican supporter:
Adams has been actively involved in fundraising for Republican Party candidates. He reportedly contributed over $1 million of billboard advertising (through his Adams Outdoor Advertising business) to support George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.
So, it’s either fear of Chris Christie-style retribution from the Snyder administration in the heat of a gubernatorial campaign or its a Republican supporter (read: crony) pulling strings to help his business associate (read: governor).
Either way it stinks. It is just one more piece to go along with all of the other cronyism, nepotism, backroom deals, and lack of transparency that have dogged the Snyder administration for the past three years.
Hopefully Governor Snyder had to look at the billboard in Ann Arbor on his way to work today. And hopefully all those Ann Arbor Democrats who voted for Rick Snyder in 2010 got a look at it, too, to remind them of the tragic mistake they made that they must atone for at the ballot box in November.