SAN DIEGO -
If you have noticed all the negative campaign ads on television lately, then you have also probably seen how contentious the 52nd congressional district race between Brian Bilbray and Scott Peters is.
The Campaign Civility Project grades political ads. The group said there is a reason why these attack ads are particularly aggressive.
In a current anti-Bilbray ad, he is blamed for the growing national debt.
"That's a little misleading," said Civility Project judge Jeff Marston. "He's one of 435 members of Congress so you can kind of blame anybody for those things."
The message was approved by opponent Peters but the three Civility Project judges found the ad to be less than truthful or fair.
"In fairness, we gave it low marks because it had a lot of grainy photos and a lot of these things being done in the dark…the typical stuff you do in a negative campaign ad," said Marston.
The average grade for the anti-Bilbray ad: C+.
The panel also examined an anti-Peters ad that portrays his personal wealth as a bad thing. The judges say that is not fair or relevant.
"What does being wealthy have to do with your ability to serve in office?" asked Marston. "If that was going to be the criteria, we might as well throw out 70 percent of the people serving in office."
The group said it found few redeeming qualities with that ad.
"We thought it was uncivil, emotional, a real personal attack… just sort of a nasty ad," said Marston.
The average grade for the anti-Peters ad: D.
The ad was paid for by the Republican Congressional Committee which, along with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has been pouring national money into this race.
The judges say these political action committee ads tend to be the worst.
"It's particularly bad and negative because it's really the only contested congressional race in the region," said Marston.
Should the candidates speak up against negative ads and ask for them to be removed?
"In a perfect world, it'd be great for a candidate to come forward," said Marston, "But at the end of the day, it's already out there."
The group says though most voters indicate they do not like negative ads, for some reason the ads seem to be effective. A major voter backlash may be the only way to stop the ads.
The Campaign Civility Project is a partnership between the Independent Voter Network and the project Restoring Respect, an initiative co-sponsored by the San Diego Community College District, the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Educational Sciences and the Catfish Club of San Diego.
What We Seek to Do:
The Campaign Civility Project seeks to create greater awareness amongst citizens and elected officials concerning the levels of civility and incivility in local political campaigns.