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Source: Humbert, Marc, “Coalition Mounts TV Ad Campaign Against State Constitutional Convention,” Buffalo News, October 31, 1997, p. 14A

A coalition that includes the state AFL-CIO and New York’s trial lawyers has begun a $ 725,000 television ad campaign to defeat Tuesday’s ballot proposal for a state constitutional convention, officials said Thursday.

Jane Thompson, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against a Constitutional Convention, said two 30-second advertisements would air statewide through Monday.
The move was immediately assailed by a proponent of the convention, state Sen. Richard Dollinger, D-Rochester.

“It seems so misguided that people are spending their money to squelch democracy,” he said.

The anti-convention ads began airing this week in New York City, Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany. They began in Rochester today. More than $ 570,000 of the campaign spending will be in the New York City media market.

One ad attacks the convention as a “party” to be paid for with $ 50 million in taxpayers’ money and dominated by “the same old insiders, the bigwigs and the billionaires,” who already control state government. The ad features two men toasting each other with champagne as confetti falls from above.

A second ad asks New Yorkers to “imagine how many textbooks and computers $ 50 million could buy for New York children’s public schools.”

The ads urge a “no” vote Tuesday on the statewide ballot proposal.

Convention proponents have said the convention could be staged for much less than $ 50 million and would not necessarily be controlled by the same forces that dominate the State Legislature. It is in the Legislature that constitutional reform initiatives such as term-limit legislation have been bottled up. It could be proposed by a constitutional convention.

New Yorkers must be asked at least once every 20 years if they want a convention to possibly overhaul the state constitution. They rejected that proposal in 1977.

The convention proposal is being supported by Gov. Pataki and three of his 1994 opponents, former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo; millionaire Rochester businessman B. Thomas Golisano; and government fiscal critic Robert Schulz.

Golisano has pumped $ 300,000 of his own money into a statewide radio advertising campaign that will run through Election Day. But Golisano said Thursday he had no plans to finance any television ads to counter the coalition’s campaign.

“I think by now people have already made up their minds,” Golisano said.

Dollinger said he was impressed by the size of the anti-convention coalition’s media buy.

“The polls must be bad against them,” the senator said.

Independent polls have found that the majority of New Yorkers support holding a convention, but also that most do not know much about it.

If New Yorkers vote Tuesday to hold a convention, delegates would be selected in next year’s election, and the convention would convene in the spring of 1999.