In the Spotlight

News & Features
Ad Watch
by Mark Zdechlik
May 4, 2000
Part of MPR's coverage of Campaign 2000
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

In a new television campaign ad, DFL Senate candidate Mike Ciresi tries to counter the fat-cat attorney image some voters may have of him.
Listen to this ad.

MOST MINNESOTANS who've heard of Mike Ciresi, know him as the lawyer who won the more than $6 billion settlement against the tobacco industry for the state.

Many of them also likely have some idea that Ciresi's law firm collected almost $450 million for his efforts. The attorney's latest ad - a 30-second TV spot called "DAD" - frames him in a different light, showing voters Ciresi shares a family history common to many working Americans.

The talks about Ciresi's mother's battle with breast cancer, which took her life when he was in seventh grade. And it underscores his work ethic.

Ciresi campaign spokesman Paul Omodt says the ad is an effort to give voters a sense of Ciresi's accomplishments and struggles unrelated to the tobacco settlement.

"I think it puts more context in Mike's life, tells the whole story; kind of see what motivates him in his life," says Omodt. "The ad's just a chance to tell Mike's story, not to define him by the last three years of his life, and really give the voters more context as to Mike the person."

"If people know his name, they know he made a fortune on the tobacco settlement."

- Clay Steinman
Macalester College communication studies professor Clay Steinman says it's not surprise Ciresi's campaign put together such an ad. Steinman says Ciresi's challenge is twofold: to make sure people know who he is, and to fight any negative images voters may have of him because of his success as a trial lawyer.

"If people know his name, they know he made a fortune on the tobacco settlement," says Steinman. "They don't necessarily think what lawyers earn for those settlements is fair. He's got to counter that image. He's got to present himself as someone who knows what hard work is and who knows what loss is and who knows what it is to not give up and not to seem like he's someone out for a quick buck."

There is a wide field of DFL Senate candidates, but only Ciresi has appeared in TV ads so far.

Steinman says Ciresi's ability to bankroll ads gives him a significant advantage over fellow DFLers without big bucks. "Ciresi has enormous amounts of money," Steinman says. "He gets to make this case because he has lots of money. That leaves people who don't have so much money or access to so much money unable to make a similar kind of case for themselves."

Ciresi's campaign says its "DAD" ad will run statewide through the state DFL convention early next month.