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Senator pulls his dealership ad featuring teachers union chief

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer, stopped running television commercials Monday that feature West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee promoting Cole’s car dealership in Bluefield.

Cole said he pulled the ads after learning that people were criticizing Lee, a longtime customer of the Bill Cole Automall.

“If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t ask him to do the ad,” Cole said. “I’m surprised at the level of scrutiny this is getting.”

Cole said the commercial was aired “once or twice” last weekend. The television ad includes shots of the state Capitol dome, and of Cole and Lee having a conversation in the Senate lounge at the Capitol.

“I made a mistake,” Lee said Monday. “I was doing something for a friend and for a car dealership where I’ve been buying cars for 14 years.”

The commercial appeared just a week after state lawmakers approved a $1,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers. Lee lobbied for the pay raise. Cole voted for the hike and other education bills,

“I have a 100 percent record for education,” said Cole, who was elected to the Senate two years ago. “I think education reform is key and critical to our state.”

In the Cole Automall ad, Lee remarks, “The personal touch was so good that we have continued to buy cars from him … It all comes from the relationship we’ve built with Bill. Those relationships are what’s most important to me.”

The ad’s narrator says, “On behalf of the Bill Cole Automall, thank you, Dale.”

State ethics law prohibits public officials from using “the prestige of his or her office” for the private gain of an individual or business…

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