Source: Dao, James, “The Ad Campaign: Attacking a Constitutional Convention,” New York Times, November 1,1997.

Citizens Against a Constitutional Convention, which includes unions, environmentalists, trial lawyers and abortion rights advocates, has begun running 30-second television commercials around the state.

PRODUCER — Joe Slade White & Co.

ON THE SCREEN — Two balding, overweight men, one holding a cigar, the other fondling a wine cooler, smirk. As the narrator speaks, they pop open a champagne bottle and sip while confetti rains down. The spot ends with white words on a black background: “Tuesday, Nov. 4, Vote No on the Constitutional Convention.”

THE SCRIPT — “The same old insiders, the bigwigs and the billionaires, want to rewrite New York’s Constitution. Is that a good idea? And they expect New York taxpayers to pay $50 million for their constitutional convention. Fifty million tax dollars? Your taxes, their party. It’s time to tell the bigwigs and the billionaires that the party is over. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, send them a message. Vote no on their constitutional convention.”

ACCURACY — The only billionaire clearly in favor of the convention is Ronald Lauder, a champion of term limits. But he has yet to spend a dime promoting it. Change-N.Y., an anti-tax group financed by Wall Street millionaires, opposes it. So it is fair to say that big money is on both sides. The cost of a convention is also unclear. Opponents put the cost at $50 million. But proponents say that delegates could pool staffs and forsake perquisites to keep the cost to $15 million.

SCORECARD — Convention opponents worry that many voters are dissatisfied with state government and believe a convention could fix it. They are trying to send the message that a convention would be controlled by the same crowd that is causing Albany’s problems now. That message could backfire if voters decide that unions and trial lawyers favor the status quo because it favors them.