Images of the wrong state’s Badlands were used on a direct mail advertisement paid for by the proponents of North Dakota’s Measure 5, the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment that would funnel millions of dollars in oil tax revenue toward enhancing outdoor recreation and conservation efforts.
The ad, paid for by North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife & Parks, was sent to addresses throughout the state last week promoting “North Dakota heritage.” It features two photos taken in the South Dakota Badlands, according to numerous online image searches.
Steve Adair, Ducks Unlimited’s director of operations for the Great Plains Region and spokesman for North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife & Parks, stated in an email Tuesday that the photos were incorrectly labeled by a stock photo vendor.
“Yes, we made a mistake, and used the photo provided to us by our vendor,” Adair wrote. “It is the North Dakota way to fess up to a mistake and we are doing that. … This is just more grasping at straws by our opponents to divert the people of North Dakota from the real issues of how are we going to maintain our clean water, recreation and world class fish and wildlife resources in the face of such drastic changes.”
One photo on the two-sided ad shows the Badlands at dusk with the words “Our Natural Heritage Makes North Dakota Special.” The other side has a photo of a young boy atop of a Badlands rock with the phrase “We must protect our natural heritage for future generations.”
The photo of the Badlands at dusk is found on numerous tourism websites for South Dakota’s Badlands National Park. It is also the first image result after a search of “South Dakota Badlands” on the stock image site iStockPhoto.com. The photo of the boy was also taken in the South Dakota Badlands, according to the stock image site ThinkstockPhotos.com.
“The important point is that the Badlands are undergoing drastic changes and we, as a state, need to protect them for future generations,” Adair stated Friday in the email.
The direct mail flyers were created by The Chadderdon Group, an Alexandria, Va.-based business that describes itself as “the first solely female owned Democratic direct mail firm in the country.”
Amanda Bowen, the chief operating officer and general counsel for The Chadderdon Group, said it is the company’s policy not to discuss its selection process or how photos for its direct mail is chosen.
Jon Godfread, the chairman of North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation — the group opposing Measure 5 — issued a news release about ad Tuesday and stated his belief that the proposed amendment is being guided by out-of-state interests.
“It tells you a lot about the out-of-state groups running this campaign when they can’t even tell the difference between North Dakota and South Dakota,” Godfread stated in the release. “It just goes to show how truly disconnected they are from North Dakota.”
Both the proponents and opponents of Measure 5 have been using numerous stock images in their respective advertising campaigns.
Adair defended the use of stock images in emails both Saturday and Tuesday and pointed to the North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation’s use of a stock image of six children standing by a blackboard that says “No on 5!” and the words “Measure 5 puts conservation spending ahead of education.”
Adair said that North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation also has out-of-state interests helping with its campaign, and stated in an email that the American Petroleum Institute “has come into North Dakota with their misinformation to distract voters.”
In a phone interview, Godfread called the attack on his group’s advertising “not even comparable” and said that the blackboard image was only posted on his group’s Facebook page.
“It’s another attempt to mislead the North Dakota voter,” he said. “… This isn’t the first thing they’ve done. This isn’t the first thing they’ve been downright deceitful.”