Money talks on Amend. 31
$3 million ad campaign targets anti-bilingual proposal
By Eric Hübler
Denver Post Education Writer
Friday, October 04, 2002 -
Coloradans are witnessing the start of one
of the biggest political TV ad campaigns in the country, according to the
co-author of a proposal that will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.
A $3 million ad campaign urging voters to reject Amendment 31, which
would ban most bilingual education in Colorado public schools, was
launched last weekend.
"It might be one of the most intense media barrages anywhere in the
United States," said Ron Unz, the California businessman who
co-authored the amendment with Denver resident Rita Montero.
On a dollars-per-voter basis, the "No on 31" ad campaign rivals the
tens of millions of dollars that California Gov. Gray Davis is spending on
his re-election effort, Unz said.
The spot is reaching living rooms courtesy of Pat Stryker, a Fort Collins
heiress who has a child at a dual-language school that would be
affected by the amendment. Her $3 million gift for the "no" side to buy
advertising is thought to be the largest individual donation ever to an
issue campaign in Colorado.
Unz said he is increasing his financial commitment to his Colorado
English for the Children campaign, but wouldn't be specific.
"I'm trying to raise a little money," said Unz, a software entrepreneur
and one-time California gubernatorial candidate.
Independent pollster Floyd Ciruli said $3 million wouldn't make this the
most expensive Colorado issue campaign ever: More than $5 million
was dropped on both sides of a 1994 initiative on cigarette taxes.
But Ciruli agreed with Unz that spending in the bilingual race is the
most one-sided in memory.
"In terms of almost all that money being on one side, that is pretty
unique," Ciruli said.
Unz had a compliment of sorts for the ad, which features photos of
grim-looking children and a grim-sounding voice-over saying bad things
about Amendment 31.
"It really seems like a strong spot," Unz said. "It's factually incorrect,
but the impact the factual incorrectness has on the impact of the spot is
The ad is inaccurate, he said, in asserting that Amendment 31 would
force children who don't know English into mainstream classes.
While the proposal calls for English immersion courses "not normally to
exceed one year," Unz said that, in practice, "they will be moved only
when they know enough English."
John Britz, a spokesman for the anti-amendment group English Plus,
said the ad has been surprising voters who didn't know the
amendment permits lawsuits against educators if they continue to use
bilingual teaching methods but don't have success with them.
"When people see that, their first reaction is, 'That's in this ballot
issue?"' Britz said.
Britz said the campaign may produce another ad if voters tire of the first
"Repetition is a good thing. Too much repetition could be harmful," Britz
said. In other races, poll numbers have gone down when a campaign
airs the same ad too many times, he said.
"This is a phenomenon you're seeing all over the country, so much
advertising is being bought," Britz said.
BallotFunding.org, a liberal Washington, D.C., group that tracks ballot
measures nationwide, said the "No on 31" campaign is big, but not the
biggest in the country.
The food industry has pledged $6 million to defeat an initiative in
Oregon that would require the labeling of genetically modified foods,
said Galen Nelson, the group's director.
The 2000 census put Oregon's population at 3.4 million and Colorado's
at 4.3 million.