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Ads blast Risch Social Security, tax policies

TUESDAY, OCT. 21, 2008

Candidate calls ads ‘half-truths’

BOISE – Democratic Idaho Senate candidate Larry LaRocco has two new TV ads out criticizing Republican rival Jim Risch on Social Security and taxes.

While the ads aren’t technically inaccurate, the Risch campaign objects to their claims as “half-truths,” and LaRocco says they’re spot-on.

“I stand by the ads,” LaRocco said. “I think they properly portray what his policies and actions have been.”

One of the ads features a sober, kitchen-table discussion; the other is a cartoonish ad in which a carnival barker’s voice criticizes Risch, who is shown as a cartoon figure with a bobbing head.

The kitchen-table piece claims Risch “opened the door to a risky scheme to privatize Social Security. He advocated diverting payroll taxes, taking Social Security and investing it in Wall Street schemes, ending retirement security as we know it.”

The catch: Risch said at a debate in Lewiston a week ago that he’s against privatizing Social Security. He also said he’d oppose any reduction in Social Security benefits.

Nevertheless, Risch indicated in the Gem State Voter Guide that he supports the “option of at least partially privatized Social Security accounts for younger workers,” and in an AARP voter guide, he was noncommittal on the question of “diverting Social Security payroll taxes to individual retirement accounts,” saying only, “It would depend on the specifics of the legislation to divert payroll taxes.”

“Gov. Risch … believes that for the next generation of Social Security and people coming into that system, we clearly need to have a systematic overhaul,” said Risch’s campaign director, Matt Ellsworth, “and that we need to put all the cards on the table, and that may include a non-federal component of Social Security.”

He added, “Jim Risch does not support the privatization of Social Security carte blanche.”

As currently structured, Social Security is expected to develop an annual shortfall of $250 billion by the year 2030.

LaRocco’s campaign said in a news release, “While Risch has responded to two questionnaires by saying he would consider privatization, then tried to hedge on that position in the Lewiston debate, LaRocco’s answers have been strong and consistent.”

Ellsworth said, “You show me a quote of Jim Risch saying he wants to put Social Security into risky Wall Street schemes and I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Once again, Larry LaRocco has created his half-truth to scare people unnecessarily.”

The second ad covers both Social Security privatization and the tax reform plan Risch pushed through as governor in 2006. In it, a carnival barker’s sarcastic voice says, in part, “Some of Jim Risch’s great ideas for Idaho’s middle class: Raising your sales tax by 20 percent, even on groceries, a tax hike that’s whacked the average family for over $1,700.”

LaRocco campaign spokeswoman Jean McNeil said the reference to the sales tax increase – Risch’s successful proposal raised Idaho’s sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent, while reducing property taxes by $260 million – uses the figure for the amount an average Idaho family has paid in additional sales tax over a two-year period, $1,700, because the tax was raised two years ago. Said LaRocco, “I stand by the figures – they’re correct.”

Idaho is one of only a few states that fully applies its sales tax to groceries. This year’s Legislature approved a phased-in increase to the state’s small grocery tax credit on state income tax returns to help offset that.

Risch earlier ran commercials touting his property tax cut without mentioning the offsetting sales tax increase.

The two are among five candidates seeking the open U.S. Senate seat created by the retirement of longtime Sen. Larry Craig. The other candidates are Libertarian Kent Marmon; and independents Rex Rammell and “Pro-Life,” formerly known as Marvin Richardson.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or For more news from Boise go to /boise.

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