BOISE - Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick launched a new campaign commercial Tuesday, again faulting the record of his GOP challenger, Raul Labrador, on immigration.
The new spot replaces both of Minnick’s earlier ads, one of which was sharply critical of Labrador for his work as an immigration lawyer, while the other sought to distance the freshman Democratic incumbent from national Democratic leaders and their agenda.
The new immigration ad is less biting than the first, which didn’t play well with many Idaho Democrats and also was harshly criticized on the state’s editorial pages for taking a Labrador comment out of context, in which Labrador joked about how he makes “a good living” from the nation’s “broken” immigration system.
However, Labrador still denounced the new ad as “deceptive” and “intentionally misleading.”
In it, former U.S. Marshal for Idaho Mike Johnson - a former longtime elected Republican official in Ada County - expresses concern about illegal immigration, and says, “That’s why the truth about Raul Labrador’s record matters.” He then says, “His website, RapidImmigration.com, offers advice to illegal immigrants seeking amnesty,” and accuses Labrador of “trying to have it both ways on immigration.”
Labrador operated the website for two and a half years, but sold it three years ago; it was an immigration law site that sold do-it-yourself packets including instructions and forms.
“It was a way for people who could not afford an attorney to have easy to use, do-it-yourself forms,” Labrador told The Spokesman-Review. “It was a lot of work. It was not very profitable, so I sold it.”
While he operated the site, it received an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau. Labrador said that was for a single customer complaint to which the business didn’t respond, and he didn’t hear about it until long after he’d sold the website.
A company in Miami bought the site and operates it now.
Johnson, who was Idaho’s U.S. Marshal during the Ruby Ridge siege in North Idaho and who served as the Boise Airport Police chief until he retired in 2007, said he’s a longtime friend of both Minnick and his wife, A.K. Lienhardt-Minnick, and he feels strongly about illegal immigration.
“The bottom line with me is it’s a security issue,” Johnson said. “I think Mr. Labrador flip-flopped on a lot of that. His business is to represent aliens and illegal aliens.”
Labrador has said repeatedly in recent months - including in a television interview on a prominent Spanish-language news program this week - that his position is that all illegal immigrants should return to their country of origin before they apply to return legally.
He said Tuesday that that’s always been his position, but asked if that’s what he told people who came to him for advice on immigration law, he said, “I have to advise my clients of the law - in fact, I would lose my license if I advise them otherwise.”
Labrador disputed that his website offered advice on “amnesty.” “It explained the law,” he said. “What the site tried to do is explain what the state of the law in the United States is. It explained all the different types of applications that were available to people.”
Minnick, in an op-ed piece distributed to Idaho newspapers that editorialized against his earlier ad, defended it and called it a “straightforward, tough look at Raul’s own record and background, the two things he specifically points to as his main qualifications for office.”
Boise State University political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby said the new ad seems to suggest Labrador currently has a website on which he contradicts his own political statements. “That’s misleading, because it is in the present tense, and not accurate,” Weatherby said. “It wouldn’t have much effect, would it, if you would say, ‘Three years ago Raul Labrador had a website that does this and that.’”
John Foster, Minnick’s campaign manager, said the new ad is intended “to continue reminding voters and reinforcing that there are some troubling questions about Raul Labrador’s background and work, and that his rhetoric on the issues not only sometimes does not match his past statements, it also doesn’t match what he does for a living.”
Labrador shot back, “He continues with the same untruths about my record, because he’s unwilling to actually discuss the issues.”