BOISE – Several political commercials came out last week in the hot race for North Idaho’s seat in Congress, adding charges and countercharges to the mix that voters must process as Election Day approaches.
An ad from freshman GOP Rep. Bill Sali calls his Democratic challenger, Walt Minnick, “too liberal for Idaho.” Showing a greasy-haired actor doing a disco dance, the ad says, “Some politicians sure dance to hide their liberal ways.”
The ad then ridicules Minnick for touting himself as an avid hunter even though he recently received a low rating from the National Rifle Association; claims a newspaper guest opinion he wrote in 2003 opposing Bush tax cuts means he wants to raise taxes on Idaho families by $2,200 a year; and cites his membership on the board of the Wilderness Society to counter his recent statements supportive of domestic oil drilling.
Minnick’s campaign disputes the ad’s claims.
Campaign spokesman John Foster discounted the candidate’s recent “D-plus” rating from the NRA, which came out shortly before Sali’s ad.
The NRA’s Web site says a D is reserved for candidates who’ve “frequently voted for restrictive gun control legislation or made strong statements in opposition to Second Amendment rights and regardless of public statements can definitely not be counted on in key votes.”
“We’re very comfortable with Walt’s bona fides on guns,” Foster said, “and I think it’s pretty clear to anybody who pays attention that this NRA thing is clearly politically motivated to help Sali.”
Foster also called the ad’s claim about taxes “patently false, deceiving and deceptive.” He said Minnick’s opinion opposing the 2003 tax cuts warned of economic consequences of giving breaks to the wealthiest taxpayers – “that it would lead to exactly where we’re at right now.”
Minnick favors scaling back tax cuts for the wealthy to give relief to the middle class, according to his campaign Web site.
Sali spokesman Wayne Hoffman said that if the Bush tax cuts were repealed today, the average Idaho family would face a $2,200 tax increase, according to White House estimates.
The Sali campaign has derided the Wilderness Society as a “radical environmental group,” although two of Sali’s fellow members of the all-GOP Idaho congressional delegation, Sen. Mike Crapo and 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson, have been working with the group on proposals for the Owyhee Canyonlands and the Boulder-White Cloud mountains.
“(Minnick) was on the governing board of the Wilderness Society, and … that organization actively sued and worked to stop oil drilling,” Hoffman said.
Foster said he wasn’t familiar with the lawsuit cited in the ad.
But, he said, “Walt was not necessarily the most popular guy on that board, because he was probably the most conservative voice on that board trying to pull them away from some of their tactics in the past toward the kind of consensus-building they’ve been doing with Crapo and Simpson.”
He added, “All these conservation groups and Idaho leaders have realized it’s better to work together from the middle, while Bill Sali has insisted on working from the fringe.”
Minnick has a new ad out that features five “Republicans for Minnick.” They tout Minnick’s success in leading Trus Joist International through three recessions as its CEO; call Sali “too confrontational”; and say Minnick will “put an end to the earmarks and the pork-barrel spending.”
Boise State University political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby said he’s always skeptical of promises from politicians to do away with “pork-barrel spending,” which he said is “in the eye of the beholder.
For the recipient, “it is funding for a vital project,” he said. “For the envious onlooker, it is wasteful government spending.”
Among the most-criticized federal earmarks of 1990, Weatherby noted, was the funding for a gondola at Silver Mountain, which then-Idaho Sen. Jim McClure got approved to help revitalize the economy of Idaho’s Silver Valley.