September 27, 1996 in Nation/World

Craig, Minnick TV Ads Both Untruthful Campaign Funding, Nuclear Waste Issues Become Basis For Distortions

By The Spokesman-Review
 

New TV ads for Sen. Larry Craig and challenger Walt Minnick suggest the Senate race is getting too hot for cold, hard facts.

Craig’s ad, which began airing statewide Wednesday, claims most of Minnick’s campaign money comes from “New York millionaires” and “Washington special interest groups.”

Minnick’s ad, which started running statewide last week, claims Craig “supports a plan under which 41 foreign nations will send their nuclear waste to Idaho.”

Neither claim is true.

Minnick received only a fraction of his support from New Yorkers. And Craig has not suggested accepting nuclear waste from 41 countries.

Political observers say it could be worse. At least these ads are on issues, rather than just personal attacks, said Florence Heffron, a University of Idaho political science professor.

“They are at least moving a little more toward substantive concerns,” Heffron said. But she said they follow a national trend this year: “Pick an issue that’s salient, start with a basis of truth, and then you just embroider and distort.”

According to the Federal Election Commission, Minnick received about $101,000 from 126 New Yorkers, many of them attorneys or business executives. That’s about 9 percent of his $1.1 million in campaign funds.

Craig received about $9,000 from 18 New Yorkers during the same period. That’s one-half of 1 percent of his $1.76 million total.

As for “Washington special interest groups,” Minnick received $28,653 from PACs, while Craig has received $558,940 since Jan. 1, 1995.

“The difference is, Walt Minnick is criticizing the practice and yet he’s still accepting the money,” said Mike Tracy, Craig’s campaign spokesman. “We’re not criticizing the practice, and have not been.”

Craig opposed legislation this year that would have banned PAC contributions.

Tracy said the ad shows that Minnick is “a phony on campaign finance reform.”

“We know for a fact that he’s been vigorously going after PAC money in Washington, D.C., because we’ve had people tell us that they’ve rejected him outright because of his position on issues,” Tracy said.

Bill Broadhead, Minnick’s campaign spokesman, said, “I think what’s really going on is Larry Craig knows he’s vulnerable on this issue. He’s trying to throw this up as a smokescreen, so people won’t look at how much money he’s taken from Washington, D.C., special interest groups.”

Craig’s ad features footage of ‘40s-style fat cats in three-piece suits, puffing on cigars, and asks, “Why are these outsiders trying to buy Walt Minnick a Senate seat? To make it easier to control Idaho!”

Minnick’s ad sharply criticizes Craig for his record on nuclear waste, repeating recent criticisms of Craig by former Gov. Cecil Andrus.

Andrus said Craig opposed his efforts to block nuclear waste from entering the state in the late 1980s.

But the ad goes on to claim, inaccurately, that Craig supports a plan to bring 41 nations’ waste to Idaho.

The plan in question is Gov. Phil Batt’s agreement with the federal government. It allows more waste shipments in return for promises that waste at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory will be cleaned up and moved out within 40 years.

A section of the agreement refers to a longtime program through which the United States has sent nuclear material to certain foreign countries for use in research reactors, with the agreement that the spent fuel be returned. The spent fuel can be reprocessed to yield material for nuclear weapons; the U.S. government wants to control the waste to avoid the proliferation of such weapons overseas.

Although 41 nations participate in the program, the vast majority of the waste - about 19 metric tons - is scheduled to go to the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina.

Only one ton of the waste, originating in 19 foreign countries, is scheduled to come to INEL.

Jeff Schrade, a special assistant to Batt who helped negotiate the agreement, said, “It makes it sound like this huge amount of stuff is coming.”

Instead, the 160 shipments that are planned would all fit together in the back of one pickup truck, Schrade said.

Tracy said the waste would come to Idaho with or without the governor’s agreement, but the agreement brings the state trade-offs in return, like cleanup money and schedules for moving waste out.

Both campaigns stood by their ads’ claims. Broadhead said the waste agreement doesn’t rule out the possibility that plans could change, and all the waste could be sent to Idaho.

Tracy said contributions to the Democratic Party from New York millionaires and Washington special interest groups could be benefiting Minnick, along with the candidate’s own fund-raising.

“They’ve both identified a point or an issue that they think is hot with the voters,” Heffron said. “So they’ve just embroidered, shall we say, a little on the reality, to bring it to the voters’ attention.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TRUTH VS. ADVERTISING

Walt Minnick’s advertisement The claim: The ad says Larry Craig “supports a plan under which 41 foreign nations will send their nuclear waste to Idaho.” The truth: One ton of the waste, originating in 19 foreign countries, is scheduled to come to INEL.

Larry Craig’s advertisement The claim: The ad says most of Walt Minnick’s campaign money comes from “New York millionaires” and “Washington special interest groups.” The truth: According to the Federal Election Commission, Minnick received about $101,000 from 126 New Yorkers, many of them attorneys or business executives. That’s about 9 percent of his $1.1 million in campaign funds. Craig received about $9,000 from 18 New Yorkers during the same period. That’s one-half of 1 percent of his $1.76 million total.

This sidebar appeared with the story: TRUTH VS. ADVERTISING

Walt Minnick’s advertisement The claim: The ad says Larry Craig “supports a plan under which 41 foreign nations will send their nuclear waste to Idaho.” The truth: One ton of the waste, originating in 19 foreign countries, is scheduled to come to INEL.

Larry Craig’s advertisement The claim: The ad says most of Walt Minnick’s campaign money comes from “New York millionaires” and “Washington special interest groups.” The truth: According to the Federal Election Commission, Minnick received about $101,000 from 126 New Yorkers, many of them attorneys or business executives. That’s about 9 percent of his $1.1 million in campaign funds. Craig received about $9,000 from 18 New Yorkers during the same period. That’s one-half of 1 percent of his $1.76 million total.


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