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Members’ Families Take Causes to Airwaves

Family members of 84 lawmakers and one Representative herself are starting to appear on television screens and radio waves championing causes from literacy to physical fitness.

More than 100 wives, children, nieces, nephews and one husband, as well as Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), participated in the public service campaign sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters. This year marks the largest amount of participation since the program began in 1985 as a joint effort between the NAB and the Congressional Club, a group for Members’ spouses.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to get an issue of importance out to the community,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.

Each participant chose from nine issues — breast cancer awareness, child safety, drinking during pregnancy, education, literacy, mentoring, physical fitness, prostate cancer awareness and volunteer service — to use for the television and radio segments, which are starting to air in their Members’ districts.

“We make it very easy for them,” said Rosemary Reed, president of Double R Productions, which produced the announcements.

Karen Pence, wife of Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), agreed. She and the couple’s three children made their own public service announcements, and she said they had a very positive experience, perhaps even sparking future interests in acting or broadcasting.

“It only took 10 minutes to film,” said Michael Pence, the couple’s 11-year-old son, who promoted physical fitness by encouraging people to take the stairs.

“I thought it would be nice to tell people how easy and fun it can be to exercise.”

While Michael Pence said he prefers to act on stage, his 8-year-old sister Audrey said she really liked doing the segment and later made a presentation at an NAB awards ceremony.

Audrey spoke about calling 911 because she said she thinks it’s important for kids to know.

Michael and Audry’s 10-year-old sister Charlotte said she was less comfortable in front of the camera, but said she was glad she got to speak about volunteering because “you make yourself part of something in life.”

With four public service announcements, the Pence family marked the highest participation for any Member of Congress.

“If I was a Congressman I’d get all my kids out there. It’s a free TV spot,” Reed said.

Although any publicity can be seen as good publicity, Wharton said the announcements have been planned to air during nonelection years and come with instructions for stations not to air them after Dec. 31.

“If we did it right before an election, some cynics might see it as political,” he said.

Participants represented both chambers, both parties and also included Liz Daley, wife of Independent Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.).

One of the more well-known participants was Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and the lone family member of a presidential hopeful to participate. She spoke about breast cancer awareness and early childhood education.

“I want you to call your doctor for a birthday check-up on a day you won’t forget,” she says during the commercial, displaying a group of women blowing out birthday candles.