That's the short version of what it means for the ad industry following Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D., Ill.) vacating the chairmanship of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee and being succeeded by Rep. Sam Gibbons (D., Fla.).
While it's not meant to suggest Rep. Gibbons, 74, won't be as staunch an ally of commercial speech as his predecessor, it does mean he has yet to back up conciliatory words with action.
That's in sharp contrast to the record of Rep. Rostenkowski, whose chairmanship ended, at least temporarily, last month following a 17-count indictment on corruption charges. The ad industry lost an ally who had fended off attempts to reduce the tax deductibility of advertising as a business expense.
The most salient example was in the fall of 1990, industry officials said, when Rep. Rostenkowski and Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, thwarted an 11th hour attempt by the Bush administration to squeeze about $10 billion from the ad industry. Then-Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady had proposed reducing ad deductibility to 80% as a quick way to bridge a revenue gap that showed up during tax legislation talks by a House-Senate conference committee.
"At about 3 a.m., the conference committee realized there was a $10 billion shortfall and had this deductibility proposal to bring in about $10 billion," said Dan Jaffe, exec VP at the Association of National Advertisers. "I was at our annual meeting in Naples, Fla., thinking all was fine ... there was a call saying deductibility was on the table. I walked to my veranda, with a beautiful view of the moon over the water, and said, `Stop the music,' and we mobilized.
"We'd previously met with the Ways & Means and Senate Finance committee members ... and were able to get deductibility off the bargaining table," Mr. Jaffe said. Both Rep. Rostenkowski and Sen. Bentsen sat on that conference committee.
"We put a lot of effort into educating Rostenkowski on the value of advertising," said Wally Snyder, president of the American Advertising Federation. "We had a couple of important meetings with him in recent years in his district in Chicago with people from Quaker Oats and Leo Burnett and others. At one of them, Clark Hines from Quaker looked out a window and pointed out the Tribune Building and Leo Burnett and Quaker and noted that they all employed a lot of people in Chicago because of advertising. That, I think, brought the message home to him."
Mr. Jaffe said Rep. Rostenkowski was also invaluable to the industry when he refused to allow advertising to be included in a list of intangibles whose tax treatment was revised by 1992 legislation.
Rep. Gibbons has spoken to ad industry groups, said the ANA's Mr. Jaffe, and left the distinct impression of friendship.
"He said he was skeptical about taking away advertising's deductibility but never said, `I am in concrete on this,'*" Mr. Jaffe said. "We've got a better read on him than on a lot of others but not dead certain."
Rep. Gibbons two years ago spoke to the AAF's law conference in Washington, and while he was equally averse to the concrete then, he left a benign impression.
"We came away feeling positive about him, though he's still never voted on advertising in any way and has never made any categorical statements," Mr. Snyder said. "He warned us to remain defensive about attacks on advertising, which buttressed the idea that he was supportive of our position."