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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, October 17, 2011

MISSPENT FUNDS

"The strategy could have been from the latest Apple iPhone announcement. It called for a 'constant drumbeat of media outreach and story pitches,'"

Oregon Lottery
I don't know about other states, but I do know Oregon. When the state lottery was passed in 1980, I voted against it and vigorously opposed it for several reasons. It clearly is just pandering to ignorance and greed, it encourages gambling, it almost exclusively caters to the poor who don't have money to spend on the lottery, and most of all the outrageous lie it was promoted on (that it would only go to fund schools) was so transparent and pandering I hated it on principle. It passed anyway, and millions of dollars more went into the coffers of the Oregon state government in an idiot tax.

Once in place, it took the Oregon State Legislature about five minutes to begin finding other places that the lottery funds could be spent on, as even the most politically ignorant could have predicted. And in Oregon, at least, they advertise the lottery here almost as much as beer companies advertise their wares. There are billboards with lottery ads, radio advertisements, TV spots, fliers; you name it, they use it to advertise. I wouldn't be surprised if there are people dressed up in suits on street corners and wearing sandwich boards.

Millions of dollars each year are spent by the Oregon state government to tell everyone how great the lottery is, what the new games are, and how you should be buying tickets - for entertainment, not investment, they insist every time.

Finally, someone noticed in the Oregonian that all this money which originally was meant to go to education is being spent on... getting people to buy lottery tickets.
Oregon is cutting programs that serve poor families, threatening to close highway rest stops and laying off teachers, yet state government spent millions of dollars last year on public relations, advertising, outreach and marketing campaigns.

An investigation by The Oregonian found that over the past five years, the number of state-employed communicators increased, even as the economy tumbled.
What annoys me most is not "oh the poor people aren't getting dollars that are spent on ads" but that the ads are so blatant about misusing the funds. The whole purpose of the Oregon State Lottery was to help school funding, but none of the ads are about schools. They are about how the lottery helps a small brewing company in Astoria, or helped clean up parks, or helped open up an aquarium, on and on. Its as if they're rubbing it in our faces: Remember that lottery you voted for because it was going to schools? Here's what we're spending it on instead - after the advertising budget.

The Oregon Lottery spent almost nine million dollars last year to advertise for its self, even as teachers are being laid off and state workers are given unpaid "furlough" days. And that's just the lottery, the state is spending almost $20,000,000 a year on advertising and outreach programs about the state government. Sure, the state budget is in the red $300,000,000 so that isn't a big help but its some help.

Hiring more publicity consultants and workers so people hate their government less isn't what's needed in an economic crisis and it isn't leadership. Its trying to save your hind end when your whole career is political.

And I'm guessing Oregon isn't the only state like this.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Eric said...

The Oklahoma lottery was established nearly 10 years ago by a State Ballot Question, which was approved by a wide margin.

Like all state lotteries, it has under-delivered the monies that were estimated to go to education, but still, it has sent millions of dollars to the education department.

I think lotteries are great. It's a tax I don't have to pay, and one nobody is forced to participate in. If we could fund the entire government off of a lottery system, I'd be for it!

10:01 AM, October 17, 2011  

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