October 27, 2010 in Idaho

TV stations pull anti-Minnick ad

Commercial makes false claim about congressman’s vote
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Touted scholarships dwindle to a trickle

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter‘s latest campaign ad touts the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, which he says helps Idaho students in the current “tough economic times,” but it doesn’t mention that no new students have been able to apply for the scholarship for the past two years, due to lack of funds.

Only renewals for those whose scholarships started three years ago currently are being funded. About 450 students are getting the scholarships now, down from about 700 when it started.

Otter helped establish the fund, which provides needs-based scholarships of up to $3,000 per year, renewable for up to four years.

“It’s definitely something great that he’s done,” said Ryan Panitz, Otter’s campaign spokesman. Panitz noted that Otter wanted $100 million in the fund, but only got $20 million; no new money has been added for the past two years, though Otter unsuccessfully requested another $1 million this year.

Betsy Z. Russell

BOISE – At least two TV stations pulled a new independent ad against Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick Tuesday that falsely claims Minnick voted in favor of the federal stimulus bill.

He was one of 11 Democrats who voted against the bill.

The move came as Minnick’s GOP challenger, Raul Labrador, launched his own new campaign commercial trying to paint Minnick as a tax-raiser, but citing a bill that actually would have lowered the estate tax and tripled the exemption from it.

The federal estate tax currently is at zero for one year, but it reverts to the old, higher rates and lower exemptions Jan. 1 unless Congress takes action. Phil Hardy, spokesman for Labrador’s campaign, said that means the bill would have raised taxes from the current zero level.

The ad claims that Minnick “voted to raise taxes on farmers and ranchers,” but Minnick’s campaign said the bill “actually did the opposite.” Plus, Minnick was one of just 18 House Democrats who voted for an amendment to instead repeal the estate tax entirely; he backed the bill only after the amendment failed.

The independent ad, funded by SuperPAC for America, is one of a series of cookie-cutter versions of “Voter Guide” ads the group is airing in numerous states. It’s part of its strategy to target 50 “second-tier” seats that Democrats view as safe, in an effort to fuel a GOP pickup of 100 seats in Congress.

The group is headed by Dick Morris, the former Democratic strategist-turned-conservative commentator; it says it has raised more than $3 million so far for its ad push.

“The more we spend on these ‘safe Democratic seats’ the more we put these incumbents in danger,” Morris writes on the group’s website. “The Democrats will have to tie up incredible amounts of resources to defend these second-tier 50 seats that they once thought were safe.”

The anti-Minnick ad began running late Monday. “It appears the commercial is factually incorrect,” said Doug Armstrong, general manager of KTVB-TV in Boise. “We’ve decided to pull the commercial effective immediately.” KIVI-TV in Nampa also pulled the ad.

SuperPAC for America ads target other Democratic incumbents across the country for voting in favor of the health care reform bill and the stimulus bill, then tout their Republican challengers. Minnick, however, voted against both those bills.

The anti-Minnick ad alters the message on health care to criticize him for not backing repeal of the full health care reform bill – Minnick maintains some parts, such as insurance reforms, are worth keeping – but then falsely claims Minnick voted for the stimulus bill.

RJ Laukitis, executive director of SuperPAC for America, said in an e-mail, “We are looking into this claim.”

John Foster, Minnick’s campaign manager, called the ad “outrageous,” and said, “I have already been in touch with our attorneys and with a couple of station managers. We believe the law here is very clear.” Stations have the option of rejecting false ads that come from outside groups, he said.

According to Opensecrets.org, SuperPAC for America was the top outside spender in political races in the nation on Monday, spending $1.08 million in 11 congressional districts. It’s one of the new groups formed in the wake of recent federal court rulings that permit such groups to raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, unions or corporations for political ads for or against candidates.


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