Local News

Are PSAs Being Used For Political Gain?

Posted February 14, 2003

— Attorney General Roy Cooper has put out a series of public service announcements (PSAs) warning consumers against identity theft. The PSAs renew an old argument over public service and political gain.

In 1997, then-Attorney General Mike Easley took heat for public service announcements because critics felt he used public money to campaign for governor. Cooper's current campaign to educate consumers on identity theft is not drawing the same level of criticism, but it revives a familiar political debate.

"These ads all too often look like campaign ads," said John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation.

Hood questions why Cooper must be the focus of the ads, instead of identity theft victims.

"I think what it really does, unfortunately, is it serves as a way of promoting his current post and any future political job that he may be seeking," he said.

Deputy Attorney General Josh Stein said as the state's top law enforcement officer, Cooper has the most credibility with consumers.

"The attorney general is doing his duty by educating consumers about what they can do to protect themselves, and it's a very important thing that he's doing," he said.

Chuck Fuller, who filed suit for the Easley ads, is not complaining this time. He points out that Cooper is not a likely candidate for governor and did not use campaign strategists to coordinate the PSAs.

"I believe some of the controversy has been removed from the situation and Attorney General Roy Cooper has attempted to do this right," Fuller said.

The lawsuit questioning Easley's ads was eventually thrown out of court. Cooper's public education ads are paid for by consumer settlement money and donations by private businesses.

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