Fair Game or Not? Fair Tax Ads. You Decide

Jesse Cornett

Earlier this week I got an email from Bruce McCain about mailers that FuturePAC, the campaign arm of the Oregon House Democrats, sent in several districts recently tying Republican House candidates to Americans for Prosperity and their support for a 30% sales tax.

Despite my – actually as a result of my -- earlier disparagement of Bruce, we’ve stayed in touch and have become friends. Though we don’t agree on many issues, we’re able to discuss them in a fashion that all liberals and conservatives should aspire to. I thought about it for a few and first I thought I’d send him a quick reply. Then I thought, how about two birds with one stone. Let’s start a conversation. I asked him to summarize his thoughts so I could include it in a post. Here it is:

Though you and I are as far apart on most political issues as two friends could be, the latest antics by your Democratic allies – namely FuturePAC – remind me why I have grown so disgusted with partisan politics. For tax-loving Democrats to claim with a straight face that House Republican candidates support a 30% sales tax is beyond stupid, though I’m sure Dave Hunt and FuturePAC will continue their lie without regret or shame.

Before the BlueOregon water cooler drinkers summarily dismiss me, I remind you of my own legislative race against Jeff Merkely in 2006. Then (as now) those on the Left could never refer to me without citing the OCA – which was a legal client nearly 20 years ago. Meanwhile, Merkley came under attack by several hit pieces (‘Truth-About-Merkley”) that I later learned were produced “on my behalf” but without my knowledge or consent. But my race in H47 was tame compared to what happened next door in H49.

Today in H49 Nick Kahl is blatantly lying about his opponent supporting a 30% sales tax. But those voters are used to it, having survived the nastiness of 2006 when Karen Minnis was reviled as a [w]itch and Rob Brading was smeared as a supporter of porn for kids. It all disgusted me then, as it does now. Frankly, if Oregon ever adopts an open primary or “Top Two” system, I’ll be the first to re-register as an independent. Until then, I look forward to discussing and debating issues with you in a civil and respectful manner.”

First, let me highlight that State Rep. Nick Kahl isn’t campaigning for the first time against a Republican opponent who in some fashion supported a sales tax. Kahl's 2008 opponent did so at a forum in the district but later tried to deny it. Despite it being on tape, some charged Rep. Kahl with being unfair then too.

I, like Rep. Kahl, am a Democrat who doesn’t support a sales tax. If there’s any tax some Republicans might support it's the sales tax because of its regressive nature. I’ve even personally heard the current House Minority Leader advocate for one in the past. It’s okay though, folks. If you have a policy position that’s not politically popular, you should still stand by it. If you are involved with an organization that supports something you don’t, create some distance. The Republicans in question are all still affiliated with Americans for Prosperity. If candidates want to cozy up to a group that does supports a sales tax, voters have a right to know of the affiliation and the organization’s opinion, don’t they?

In a society where we’ve had democracy challenged by Swift Boaters and Birthers, who spread absolute lies, these types of information-raising mailers are more than fair game. I won’t even go 6 years into history to talk about the Swift Boaters but let’s talk about the Birthers for a moment because they’re still out there banging the drum that President Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate proving his eligibility to serve as President. They’ve bought ads – including billboards that simply read “where’s the birth certificate,” despite his having released a certified copy of his birth certificate in 2007.

With this as the background context of the political world we are now forced to exist in, I’ve gotta tell you, that without a doubt raising questions about supporting taxes is fair game. So Bruce, and all my other conservative friends, I look forward to more civil debate in the future. On this one, it’s fair game. We can decry issue ads all we want as progressives yet if we choose to not fight fire with fire and raise legitimate yet sticky issues, it would be unilateral disarmament to those like Birthers who let no facts get in the way. And at least voters know where the hits are coming from.

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    It's fair game. When the right wingers align themselves with funding organizations who promote the so-called "Fair Tax" of 30% sales tax, they need to have their feet held to the fire. You can bet the same does frequently happen when the roles are reversed. These right wing candidates love to talk out of both sides of their mouths. They espouse extremist positions to their extremist constituencies to fund their campaigns, on taxation, on abortion, on phasing out social security and medicare, or getting rid of the Veteran's Administration by privatization, then later on try to repudiate those positions when there is a general election. That doesn't wash.

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      This seems about right to me, Jeff. I think Dems should come about hard when they've got the goods on the myriad of lousy GOP policy positions taken by these candidates--and the myriad of corrupt and unethical actions in which they participate, it's wrong to make claims by association.

      That said, I do think it would have been entirely appropriate to push the GOP candidates in question to answer up about appearances in front of groups like AFP--who do in fact articulate these views.

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        I agree Carla, and I would have supported asking these candidates why they associate with such groups. That's one of the many things that drives me nuts about this...it could have been a really good thing for our D candidates had it been played properly.

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      As a perennial contributor, I'm puzzled as to why FuturePAC reached out for this particular attack opportunity when there are so many other provable and objectionable issues to attack them on. If we keep our skirts clean, we have standing to call out the other guys who employ misdirection and innuendo routinely in every election cycle.

      When, however, we stoop.....

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      Agreed. Making voters aware of associations with issue groups who advocate extreme positions is one thing. Which is fair game. But the FuturePac mailers form what I have read and seen do not seem to rise to that level and deal in dishonest claims.

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    I am speaking as the Multnomah Democratic Party Chair.

    "The Dems" have been painted with a broad brush which is inaccurate.

    The mailers are a product of Future PAC; they bear sole responsibility for content. They neither consult with nor receive approval from either the Democratic Party of Oregon NOR from any Democratic County Party.

    Regardless of the veracity of the mailers, the candidates that are affected by the blow back are becoming colored with a hue of light THEY do not deserve.

    Remember the commentary about the John Kerry Campaign? "Good guy; lousy campaign." (nationally speaking). Please bear that in mind before dragging someone like Cheryl Myers through the mudpit.

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      That hair is getting pretty tough to split

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        Assuming your referring to my post, I can assure you the hairs are on different heads. While Future PAC and organized County Parties share the same objectives during the election cycle: elect Dems, we operate on different tracks in every conceivable way.

        Just because something isn't common perception doesn't mean it's not fact.

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    Please let me reiterate Jesse's intro and larger picture here. Earlier this year, I invited (OK – challenged) Jesse to meet me in person before he flames me again in public. He accepted, and as a result, we have in fact become friends despite our obvious and irreconcilable differences on most political issues. I gave Jesse $5.00 to qualify for his city council race and I voted for him - despite my utter disgust with the grossly mislabeled "Voter-Owned Election" scam in Portland.

    After my own experience in my H47 race in 2006, I have since grown increasingly disaffected by party politics, best illustrated by this latest FuturePAC mailer. I saw firsthand what the Adams & Co. machine does to Democrats, while I experienced firsthand what FuturePAC and its allies were capable of doing to Republicans in return. So, hopefully I earned the right as a former partisan candidate myself to comment on what’s so wrong about our political system today.

    Let me say I'm encouraged by the discussion I've read so far. I agree it’s fair game for Kahl to question Wand’s association with AFP or any other group. But it’s another thing to send out a mailer to H49 voters alleging Wand himself plans to implement or supports a 30% sales tax. As I told Jesse, and as Mel above reminds us, voters in H49 have suffered enough from both parties in recent years and deserve better from their incumbent, who is no longer Karen Minnis but Nick Kahl.

    I also congratulate BlueOregon for moving away from anonymous posts with the Facebook link. Replacing an anonymous screen name with a real identity tends to civilize the threads. It actually makes it easier for people like me to contribute to the discussion (wearing flame proof blog suit, of course), knowing there are fewer if any trolls waiting to pounce. Other political blogs should follow the lead of BlueOregon if they sincerely want to improve political dialogue in this state.

    Finally, I also note that I am not alone in my opinion that the FuturePAC mailers have no place in Oregon politics.

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      I can remember back in high school reading in civics class about how being elected -- in the world's best democracy -- to public service, be it President or City Council, conferred a sacred trust. I think reference was even made to the ancient Greeks.

      Later that summer I remembered my grandfather -- Justice of the Peace for almost 20 years in Perry, Michigan -- explaining (though without using "sacred trust") about a person's reputation for honesty in the community and how quickly it can evaporate.

      Looking around to be sure Grandma was not around, he explained.

      "A reputation for honesty is like virginity. It only takes once and you've lost it for a lifetime."

      Now FuturePac may not be a candidate holding any sacred trust (although when googled, it is obvious to even the average tea partier just who FuturePac is), but how long will it be until Fox pounces on this to further shred its credibility, thus making any candidate it supports in any other race possibly having to deal with negative blowback?

      Bad call. Stupid.

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    As a supporter of Future PAC I am disappointed that they produced these ads. These Republicans have plenty of ways to be attacked without using such a specious argument.

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    Way to go DPO with the email lie that hit my inbox this AM. Trying to make it look like Dudley said: "It doesn't make sense that our waitresses are getting tips" when we all know he was quoting a restaurant owner. Selective editing of the video is just lame as well.

    If you think your candidate is better for Oregon, why do you have to LIE about his opponent?

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    I speak only for myself.

    These are clean, completely justified and, in my opinion, important criticisms of the current slate of Republican candidates. It's very simple - if you want to run for public office then you will be held to account for your public political activities, your public statements and the public endorsements you accept. If a candidate of either party chooses to participate in a rally or take an endorsement from a group that calls for a national sales tax then it's completely legitimate to be concerned that it would be public policy they would advance if elected.

    This is important because a national sales tax is pretty much mainstream thinking among the national ultra righ wing economic policy outfits like AFP and Freedomworks. This is not a new issue. In 2004 Future PAC criticized a number of Republican candidates for the exact same issue, which was then being advanced then by Citizens for a Sound Economy, now Freedomworks. Since then, as far as I can tell, Republicans in Oregon have not taken that endorsement, and rightly so.

    It's so ironic to see right wingers crying foul about this, when the tables are turned. For years Democratic candidates have been blasted for "supporting higher taxes on working families",or something like that, in mailing after mailing from Republcians and groups like Freedomworks. The evidence they have presented to back up the attack? Taking the endorsement of unions. Because we all know unions want to raise the taxes of the very people they represent right?

    How many cliches can I use here?

    What comes around goes around. You can dish it out, but you can't take it. The pot calling the kettle black.

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    Where did you get this 30% sales tax? What are you talking about? The only item I am aware of is HR25, and it is certainly a great way to get us out of these "stimulus" dreams! We have a congress who have no idea where they have been, and much less about where they are going! Don't you love the qoute, "We have to pass the bill before we know what's in it"??

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