GOP CONGRESS IS AD FRIENDLY

By Published on .

Most Popular
WASHINGTON-Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas and Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia lead a Republican parade into the Capitol this week, armed with a political agenda friendly to business and an electoral mandate for the 104th Congress to implement it.

Advertisers and media clearly relish the shift to Republican control of both House and Senate-a state of political affairs not seen since the first Eisenhower administration-and the pro-business atmosphere expected to follow.

And while there remains a concern that advertising might be called on to help pay for an apparently imminent middle-class tax cut, that concern is balanced by the belief that legislation and regulation affecting advertising and business will be minimal.

That belief should be borne out soon as Republicans try to pass early this year landmark legislation that would restrict the government's power to adopt new regulations, and allow affected businesses to review and challenge proposed regulations while still being drafted.

Perhaps the most salient example of how congressional interest in advertising will change rests within the House Commerce Committee, since 1981 headed by autocratic Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.).

The chairmanship now changes hands to Tom Bliley (R., Va.), a Richmond businessman whose district happens to encompass a major processing plant of Philip Morris USA. Not surprising then that, upon seizing the chairmanship of the congressional committee with sweeping authority over business, Rep. Bliley said he planned no continuation of the tobacco hearings aggressively conducted last year by Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), then chairman of the panel's Subcommittee on Health & Environment.

That subcommittee, which also exerts jurisdiction over the Food & Drug Administration, in the new Congress will be headed by Rep. Michael Bilirakis of Florida, considered a tobacco ally by anti-cigarette groups.

And the committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade & Hazardous Materials, responsible for overseeing the Federal Trade Commission, will be headed by Rep. Mike Oxley of Ohio, a longtime friend to the ad industry who helped broker an agreement last year that ended a 12-year impasse over FTC advertising authority.

In the Senate, the outlook seems equally positive for advertising. Majority Leader Dole is a longtime ally, who has spoken against banning or restricting advertising. And key committee chairmen in the Republican-controlled Senate appear similarly persuaded.

Larry Pressler of South Dakota, generally considered a moderate, succeeds Ernest Hollings (D., S.C.) as head of the Senate Commerce Committee. Sen. Pressler is on record as saying his first priority is to piece together telecommunications legislation of the sort that failed to pass last year.

The elevation of Robert Packwood of Oregon to the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Finance Committee will bear watching by advertising and media lobbyists. Sen. Packwood was committee chairman in 1986 when advertising's status as a fully deductible business expense first came under fire, and few in the industry have forgotten.

Another possible trouble spot could be in the 50 states if the GOP-led Congress carries through on its promise to shift to the states increased responsibility for funding education, healthcare and other services. That would increase pressure on states to develop new sources of revenue, and business services-including advertising-remain a largely untaxed target.

In this article: