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Spot Check

Editor's note: As the race for governor builds to a climax, Florida voters will be bombarded with advertisements from the candidates. As the ads appear, they will be described and analyzed by the St. Petersburg Times.Candidate: Lawton Chiles, Democrat

Opponent: Gov. Bob Martinez, Republican incumbent

Producer of ad: Greer Margolis Mitchell & Associates of Washington, D.C.

The ad: Colleen O'Sullivan, a regional vice president of the Sierra Club, stands against a background of water and greenery to say, "If you look behind the slick ads, the fact is Bob Martinez is not protecting the environment. The federal government had to sue him when he failed to protect the Everglades. Big developers are now bankrolling his campaign. Florida needs real leadership on the environment."

Then we see Chiles in the familiar office with flags. "I love this beautiful state," he says. "As your governor, I'm going to fight to protect it. We've limited contributions so we could enforce environmental laws, make polluters pay the cost of cleanup and stop offshore drilling. Together, we can pass the Florida we love on to our children and grandchildren."

Analysis: This not-so-slick ad tinkers with the truth to make its point.

Martinez has been attacked by environmentalists for many things, but the federal lawsuit filed in Miami in 1988 doesn't name the governor. It accuses the state Department of Environmental Regulation (DER) and the South Florida Water Management District of failing to protect water quality and prevent pollution in the Everglades as required by state and federal law.

Martinez has ultimate authority over both agencies, but federal officials have made it clear that the laws have been violated _ and the pollution has been worsening _ for at least 15 years.

Martinez takes credit for helping pull together an Everglades rescue plan, announced last month, that would require the sugar industry to help pay for some of the cleanup and would set aside up to 73,000 acres for water-filtering marshes. But the plan was criticized as "hollow" by a number of environmental groups. Even DER Secretary Dale Twachtmann, often perceived as development and industry's best friend in state government, said it's not tough enough. Martinez said it's a start.

It is true that roughly one-quarter of Martinez's $10.2-million in contributions has come from developers and others in the growth industry, such as real estate and construction. Once again, Chiles is saying his $100 limit on contributions will leave him free to fight the bad guys. But making the polluters pay for cleanup and keeping a ban on offshore drilling are things Martinez has promised to do, too.