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Adwatch: Pro-Williams Super PAC scores first FAIL of campaign

Type of Ad: Positive

Candidate: Tony Williams

Buy: American Cities

Title: "Changed Lives"

The Basics: Another pro-Anthony Hardy Williams ad from American Cities, the SuperPAC started by wealthy businessmen who support Williams' stance on charters and school choice. This one, called "Changed Lives," is simpler and more direct than the previous ads for the PAC produced by the media firm RSH. Where earlier RSH ads were snazzier previously, this one takes a spare, documentary approach.  It features one person, identified as Larry Bell of Philadelphia, talking about how a union apprenticeship program supported by Williams helped him to a good-paying job.  "He changed lives," Bell tells the camera.  "He changed my life."  Bell, who is black, wears a white construction hat and a union jacket that -- if you look closely -- identifies him as a member of the Union of Operating Engineers.

Crit: American Cities' polling must be telling the PAC that it needs to shore up/bolster support for Williams in his own base, which is the African-American community.  Early polls show Jim Kenney and Lynne Abraham getting a decent slice of the black vote.  This ad and a previous one -- clearly aimed at African-American voters -- are touting Williams' accomplishments in helping the black community. That said, I think this ad backfires.  If, as the ad implies, Williams was instrumental in diversifying the Building Trade Union, it runs counter to the widespread perception (not to mention the reality) that these unions are not diverse. Minorities have been trying for years to integrate these majority white male unions -- with only incremental success. To take Bell's union as an example, the Union of Operating Engineers is 81 percent white and 75 percent of its members live outside the city.  These numbers are based on an analysis of publicly-financed construction work done in the city over a five-year period.

Is the ad factual: In a narrow sense, yes. Larry Bell did apparently go through a diversity training program and he does have a good job.  To take one example and inflate it into broad diversity in these unions is not simply incorrect, it is laughable.

Overall grade: On our Pass/Fail system this is a FAIL. Its intended audience won't find it credible. The success story in integrating these unions is yet to be written.