BOISE – Two new political commercials are airing across Idaho in the race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Larry Craig.
Both come from GOP candidate Jim Risch, but the two have sharply differing tones. The first touts Risch’s prosecutorial experience as an asset in the national financial crisis, while the second launches a direct attack on Risch’s Democratic rival, former Idaho congressman Larry LaRocco.
The two candidates also face Libertarian Kent Marmon and independents Rex Rammell and “Pro-Life,” formerly known as Marvin Richardson, in the race for the open Senate seat.
In the first ad, Risch, shown in a courtroom and near an American flag, touts his experience as Ada County prosecutor and says he’ll “demand answers” on the financial crisis and “work to bring justice to those who broke the law.”
“It’s an effective ad – it taps into the anger people have toward Wall Street,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University political scientist emeritus, “despite the fact it’s overly simplistic in terms of the causes of our current national and global problems.”
Risch’s campaign director, Matt Ellsworth, said, “What Jim Risch is saying in the ad is he knows wrongdoing when he sees it, and he is clearly the candidate in this race that has experience with prosecution of people who take advantage of the system.”
LaRocco countered that he called for such a criminal investigation two days before Risch began airing his ad.
Risch’s second ad is a direct attack on LaRocco, who served two terms in Congress representing Idaho’s 1st District, which includes North Idaho.
“LaRocco voted with the Clintons for the largest tax increase in history,” the ad states. “LaRocco voted to raise your gasoline tax and even supported a tax increase on Social Security benefits.”
To support each of those claims, the Risch campaign cites a single bill – H.R. 2264, the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993. LaRocco campaign spokeswoman Jean McNeil said LaRocco supported the bill, which passed the House 218-216 with all Republicans voting against it. “It did do those things, but it also did a lot of other things as well,” McNeil said. “It gets credit from a lot of economists for turning the economy around and giving us the budget surplus we had in the 1990s, with the prosperous economic times. It was a package deal.”
The bill was the one that enacted then-President Bill Clinton’s economic policies, according to Congressional Quarterly, reducing the federal deficit by an estimated $496 billion over five years through almost $241 billion in additional taxes and $255 billion in spending cuts. It included a new top income tax bracket; a 4.3 cent increase in the federal gas tax; and a tax increase on the Social Security benefits of the wealthiest recipients, among an array of other provisions.
Said Weatherby: “It’s representative of how difficult it is to really get a handle on where these people stand today, when you can go back and make claims about omnibus bills. … It is a vote on a single piece of legislation, and not part of an extensive legislative record.”