BOISE – The latest campaign ad by an outside group targeting an Idaho race features an image of GOP Rep. Bill Sali with a bunch of sheep and charges he’s “hanging with the wrong flock in Washington.”
The commercial, placed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, uses what’s perhaps a surprising theme to criticize a freshman congressman who’s made waves for frequently voting “no” as part of tiny minorities in the House, often to oppose major spending bills.
The ad cites five of Sali’s votes against Democrat-backed legislation on issues including “pay-as-you-go” rules for House bills and offshore oil drilling, all attempting to show that Sali’s “been with the wrong flock in Washington and it’s hurting Idaho.”
The votes are cited accurately; Sali voted “no” on all five bills, in each case joining more than 100 other GOP House members in opposition. On two, he split with fellow Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson; on the other three, both GOP representatives agreed.
However, Sali’s campaign disputes the general claims in the ad that he’s favored “poor oversight of Wall Street” and “out-of-control spending,” and that he “voted against more offshore drilling but voted to protect billions in tax breaks to big oil.”
Sali spokesman Wayne Hoffman said the congressman voted against a 2007 energy bill for fear it would raise gas prices. “We have not spoken to a single person who believes that raising taxes on the oil industry is somehow going to magically lower gas prices,” he said. “Everyone knows higher taxes are only going to generate higher gas prices.”
The Democrat-backed offshore drilling bill that Sali opposed contained too many restrictions, Hoffman said. “That was just another piece of Washington, D.C., baloney, and the Democrats know it,” he said, adding that Sali strongly supports offshore drilling for oil.
Hoffman also termed the Democratic House leadership’s so-called pay-go rules “a bunch of baloney.” The rules, adopted on a 280-152 vote in January 2007, require any bill that includes new spending to identify corresponding cuts, to avoid increasing the national deficit.
“First of all it doesn’t work,” Hoffman said, “because if it did work, our deficit wouldn’t have swelled to half a trillion dollars. … They ignore it whenever they want to, and they’ve ignored it a lot. And secondly, under pay-go, in order to continue the Bush tax cuts you have to raise taxes. That’s ridiculous.”
Simpson voted in favor of the rules.
The other votes cited in the ad include one against 2007 legislation to set up a national licensing system for the residential mortgage industry and set minimum standards for borrowers, which Simpson supported; and one against a bill from Democratic Rep. Barney Frank to require an advisory vote from shareholders on executive compensation, which both Idaho House members opposed.
Sali’s re-election bid is being challenged by Democrat Walt Minnick, a businessman and former Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Idaho Sen. Larry Craig in 1996.