Los Angeles Times

November 6, 2000, Monday, Ventura County Edition

 

SIGNS ERECTED BY VENTURA BUSINESSMAN PUSH BUSH; 

CAMPAIGN: EXECUTIVE SPENT $1 MILLION ON BILLBOARDS PROMOTING THE GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE IN EIGHT KEY STATES.

BYLINE: HOLLY J. WOLCOTT, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

 

The chairman of a Ventura company has spent $1 million on billboard advertising in several key battleground states to push Republican George W. Bush's presidential campaign, federal campaign records show.

 

Stephen Adams, chairman of the board of Ventura-based Affinity Group Inc. and owner of Adams Outdoor Advertising Inc. of Atlanta, had dozens of the outdoor ads erected in early October in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin, according to Kevin Gleason, the president and chief executive of Adams Outdoor Advertising.

 

Gleason said the red-white-and-blue billboards promote Bush and running mate Dick Cheney.

 

"I think he's trying to get George Bush elected," Gleason said Sunday. "Both candidates Bush and Cheney have been favorable to the billboard industry, but I think this was more of a personal agenda."

 

Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee for president, has supported bans on tobacco billboards, a major source of income for outdoor advertising companies. Other efforts to regulate billboard advertising are also usually associated with Democratic causes.

 

Adams, a resident of Montecito, was out of the country and unavailable for comment this weekend, but Gleason said Adams also gave money to Bush's father, George Bush, when he ran for president in 1980 and 1988.

 

The billboards will remain up until after Tuesday's election, Gleason said.

 

Federal campaign laws require any individual, company or organization that wants to advertise on behalf of a candidate to file a report with the Federal Election Commission. These "independent expenditure" advertisements are forbidden from coordinating their activities with any candidate or campaign.

 

The cost of Adams' final-month billboard blitz for Bush was almost 25 times higher than his combined contributions from 1979 to this year, according to contribution records kept by the FEC.

 

Records show Adams contributed $ 43,975 to industry groups and Republican and Democratic candidates since 1979.

 

Of that total, he gave $ 37,475 to Republicans, many of them candidates in his native Minnesota, $ 6,000 to Democrats and $ 500 to a political action committee for the Outdoor Advertising Assn. of America.

 

Other than contributions to former President George Bush's campaigns in 1980 and 1988, Adams' contributions show no discernible pattern. Along with giving money to Bush in 1980, he also contributed to then-Rep. John Anderson, the Illinois Republican whose race for his party's presidential nomination turned into a third-party candidacy.

 

During the 1990s, Adams' contributions slowed from their peak in 1988, when he gave $ 27,000, most of it coming in a $ 20,000 donation to the Republican National Committee. That year, he also gave $ 2,000 to Bush's successful presidential campaign.

 

In 1990, Adams gave $ 2,000 to Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.), who was defeated in a bid for a third term. Two years later, he gave $ 250 to a Republican congressional candidate in California, Jim Salomon. Since then, his only contribution was the $ 500 donation to the advertising association PAC in November 1997.

 

During the 1980s, Adams listed his home as either Clearwater, Fla., or Wayzata, Minn. During that decade, he gave mostly to Republicans from Minnesota, but he also contributed to the 1980 reelection campaign of President Jimmy Carter and the 1984 Democratic presidential bids of Walter Mondale and Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado.

 

Affinity Group is a direct marketing company that sells products and services and produces magazines aimed mainly at recreational-vehicle owners and outdoor enthusiasts.