Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Sheriff Clarke’s Bizarre New Radio Ads

They combine campaign ads and a pitch for a private company and appear to be in violation of state laws.

By - May 20th, 2014 05:55 pm
Sheriff David Clarke

Sheriff David Clarke

Sheriff David A. Clarke has just launched a new series of weird radio ads. This in itself is no story, since Clarke in the past has created a number of Public Service Announcements promoting gun ownership or discouraging listeners from calling 911 in emergencies.

What makes the new ads different is that Clarke is acting as a commercial pitchman for a for-profit company.

The new Clarke ads, all in supremely bad taste, are for iNET, which calls itself “the Waukesha web development company building Creative Genius.” iNET also created the website for Clarke’s campaign.

Commenters, including Bruce Murphy and James Wigderson have faulted the ads.

Murphy wrote: ”Sheriff David Clarke has created some bizarre radio ads that combine a pitch for him with a plug for a company called Inet. Is this legal? I have no idea, but it hardly matters, the ads are so amateurish they are only going to make the increasingly silly sheriff look like a cheap huckster.”

Wigderson too had qualms about the legality of the ads. “I don’t know if it’s illegal (we may be in uncharted territory) but it’s just really, really wrong,” he wrote. To remind us we are dealing with reality, Clarke-style, Wigderson added, “These ads endorsing iNet of Waukesha are not parodies. These are actual ads that are on Clarke’s website and running on the radio.”

Plenty of Horne asked the Government Accountability Board Monday to weigh in on the matter, but a response has not yet been received at the time of this writing.

However, under the state ethics code, local officials may not “receive items or services offered because of their public position, unless the value of such items or services is insubstantial.”

It could be argued that Clarke would have no earthly reason to be a pitchman for the company that created his website were not a quid pro quo involved.

It raises campaign finance issues as well. A company could conceivably provide a website to a candidate as an in-kind donation, which would be reflected in campaign finance reports as both a receipt and a disbursement.

However, the January 2014 Clarke campaign finance report shows a cash disbursement of $3,750 to iNET. It was the campaign’s largest single expense. It was not recorded as an in-kind donation. The new reports are not due until July.

But if Clarke recorded the four ads for iNET in (partial or full) exchange for the firm’s work on his website, Clarke then introduces a third element into the equation. This may put him afoul of GAB regulations, which prohibit (for now, at least) “contributions from cooperatives or corporations.” That is, if iNET provides a website for Clarke and then Clarke provides four advertisements for iNET, the effect is that the iNET corporation has made a contribution to the Clarke campaign.

So, let’s say Clarke instead just simply decided to create the advertisements for iNET as a part-time job, sort of moonlighting, shall we say.

This may put the sheriff afoul of Sec. 19.59(1)(a) of Wisconsin Statutes affecting use of office for private gain.

“Public officials are prohibited from using their offices to obtain financial gain or anything of substantial value for the private benefit of themselves, their immediate families, or organizations with which they are associated.

Clarke is clearly identified as the Sheriff in the ads for the internet company, so there should be no doubt that his office is being used by the internet company for its commercial benefit.

In exchange, it could be argued that the campaign advertisements for the sheriff created by iNET were something of “substantial value,” for the benefit of Clarke personally, or his campaign, which is certainly an organization with which he is associated.

We will have to await the next round of campaign finance filings to work our way through this morass, although there is a good chance the GAB will weigh in before that.

You would think this would be an excellent topic for the sheriff’s opponent in the August Democratic primary election to weigh in on.

However, Sachin Chheda, the chair of the Chris Moews for Sheriff campaign, wrote this in response: “No comment at this time. My understanding is that Clarke has been doing ads for iNET for a while, but we just learned about it last week. We’re looking into it.”

Radio Ads

Sheriff David Clarke Jr. 30 Second Radio Ad – Gun Talk

Sheriff David Clarke Jr. Radio Ad – Gun Shots

Sheriff David Clarke Jr. Radio Ad – Woman Screaming

Sheriff David Clarke Jr. 30 Second Radio Ad – Got the Message

What if Clarke Loses?

If David Clarke loses the primary election for sheriff he will not necessarily go riding off into the sunset. Clarke is on a leave of absence from the Milwaukee Police Department, and could conceivably return there to run up his pension balance until retirement. This raises the specter of Clarke being subordinate to Chief Edward Flynn, a compelling prospect journalistically. However, some feel that Clarke’s days as a radio pitchman are still before him, and envision his return to private enterprise in front of a microphone somewhere.

Sheriff David Clarke Jr. 30 Second Radio Ad

8 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Sheriff Clarke’s Bizarre New Radio Ads”

  1. Mike says:

    If all Clark paid was $3,750 to get that website done by iNet he paid substantially less than what my company and others I know of paid to have their site done by iNet. $15,000 would be more like it.

    iNet also does radio marketing and have several of these cross-over type ads. They did one with Sue Black and have done them with many of their other website customers.

  2. Urban Dweller says:

    Is INet paying for the ads AND the commercial time? It isn’t clear to me. What stations do they run on? If they are being run as Public Service Announcements but in fact are advertisements, the station(s), Clarke, and INet are all violating FCC regulations.

    Furthermore, as a public official, if Clarke is going to promote ANY business, it ought to be one within Milwaukee County. But we all know his true constituents don’t live here.

  3. Romanzo Bunn says:

    I heard one of the ads on the Belling show this afternoon. These ads are great. The idiot from Inet is back making cat sounds during the commercials, as he did when he first starting going on the air. It is appropriate that he graduate from making cat sounds to making bird sounds. “Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo” would sound about right.

  4. Garrett Boyd says:

    I believe Sheriff Clarke is sincerely passionate about solving Milwaukee’s crime problem. A problem the Mayor is unsuccessful in dealing with. Ideally, they work together with support from all law-abiding citizens. Instead, it’s all bi-parisan stone throwing that is divisive and counter-productive. This article is biased and of the stone throwing approach.
    Solve the problem for Milwaukee’s sake.

  5. Jim Boyer says:

    All those inet ads are soooo poorly done and extremely annoying. They seem to prey on unsophisticated business owners that sell things like windows and roofing, etc. I cringe when I hear some of their ads.

    They all follow the same cookie cutter formula. It’s always the business owner (and they always say Hi I’m the owner) They just talk in a monotone voice reading from a poorly written script while putting strange emphasis in odd places, no music or anything interesting so you stop paying attention to what they’re saying halfway through. They always rip their competitors rather than sell themselves. Each has something stupid they do, like the window guy that says his phone number in a girl-like voice (who would buy anything from that idiot!). They all finish by saying the phone number and website. Each sounds like it should be playing on some low budget up north radio station.

    These inet ads are so poorly done. It’s a mystery to me why someone would be so stupid to hire them.

  6. Andy says:

    So this isn’t really a controversy so much as a “Hey, if they don’t report this properly it’ll be a controversy!”

    Thanks for the heads up… I guess?

    Regarding Inet, I wanted to respond to that as well because I find them quite interesting… I also absolutely hated their commercials, but they have come a long way in a short time. They’ve done away with the weird talking voices for the most part, an occasional annoying meow not withstanding (that window guy is not an Inet commercial, it doesn’t fit their regular template). However, I appreciate their straight forward approach in saying what they do, why they think they do it better, and how it benefits their customers. That is quite the opposite of what some here think they tend to do. Again, they’ve come a long way in a short time, so maybe that’s in reference to older commercials from a few years ago?

  7. Tonyspamoni says:

    Has anyone submitted a complaint to Milwaukee County to investigate this?
    I can’t see how there is any question whatsoever that an elected official in Milwaukee County can lend the stature of his office to a third party for their gain.


  8. American says:

    Michael Home you are a complete idiot. Sheriff David Clarke is a great American and will not fold to your idiotic anti-Second Amendment rant. Go troll somewhere else. We mainstream Americans do not want to hear your vitriolic idiocy regarding our rights.

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