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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Truths, half-truths and other campaign claims

More than a million dollars has been spent fighting for one Spokane seat in the state Senate – and the election season isn’t even over.

The milestone was reached this week in the 6th Legislative District fight between incumbent Democratic Sen. Chris Marr and Republican challenger Michael Baumgartner, according to records from the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Marr’s campaign has topped $500,000 in fundraising and has spent $470,000 of it. Baumgartner has $387,000 and has spent $352,000. Independent groups, many of which have hidden themselves as the source of ads by diverting money to creatively named political action committees, have spent $118,000 on behalf of Marr and $80,000 on behalf of Baumgartner.

Today is part three in a series analyzing some of the attacks made with that $1 million.

Claim: “With (Marr’s) tax increases, it’s hurting my employees and my business and the last thing I need right now is an income tax,” says Julie (who doesn’t give a last name and claims to be a Spokane business owner).

Source: TV ad from “Spokane Families for Change,” a group created this year. It is funded completely by Working Families for Change, which is funded completely by The Leadership Council, a committee aimed at electing Republicans to the state Senate. Among the top contributors are the Washington Health Care Association, the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Washington State Hospital Association political action committee. By diverting money like this, the true source of the money does not have to appear on ads.

Truthfulness: Perhaps true if Julie sells cigarettes. False as it applies to income tax.

Analysis: Marr voted this year to increase the tax on cigarettes from $2.03 to $3.03 a pack. He voted against the other taxes that the Legislature used this year to balance the budget.

It should be noted, however, that even though Marr voted against the final budget, he voted for an earlier version of the budget that assumed new taxes would be approved, saying he wanted to move the process forward.

Marr and Baumgartner both have taken strong stands against the income tax in general and the proposed income tax on next week’s ballot. The ad cites the Democratic Party platform as the source for their allegations that Marr backs an income tax. But Marr never signed or took a pledge to support the party platform.

Claim: Baumgartner “Supports corporate income tax that would harm small businesses.”

Source: Mailer from Marr campaign

Truthfulness: Half-true, maybe even a quarter.

Analysis: What Marr doesn’t say is that Baumgartner would only support instituting a new business tax if the state’s unpopular business and occupation tax were eliminated. And, technically, Baumgartner is supportive of a single business tax, not a corporate income tax.

Baumgartner has endorsed the Washington Policy Center’s proposed single business tax, which is based on a tax in Texas. It’s a hybrid between the business and occupation tax, which is a tax on revenue, and an income tax, which would be a tax on profits.

The proposed tax would be a tax on revenue, but businesses could deduct their cost of labor or cost of materials or $60,000, said Carl Gipson, who co-authored a report for the policy center about the single business tax.

Businesses have long called the B & O tax unfair because businesses have to pay it even if they’re not profitable. Marr has said he opposes the policy center’s proposal.

Claim: “Chris Marr (D) has wasted too much time in Olympia. (He) voted to designate the Olympic Marmot the official endemic mammal of the State of Washington, voted to create Christmas tree inspectors, voted to require truth in music advertising (and) voted to designate the Lady Washington as the official ship of the State of Washington.”

Source: Mailer from “People for Jobs,” a group that gets all its money from Enterprise Washington’s Jobs political action committee, which gets its money mostly from business interests. Contributors include Comcast, Farmers’ Insurance and Puget Sound Energy.

Truthfulness: The first sentence is for voters to decide. The second sentence is 100 percent true and could also be said about almost all Washington legislators from both parties.

Analysis: People for Jobs sent at least three mailers targeting Marr so far this campaign season. All of them make some questionable connections to Marr, including one that talks about how someone stole $431,376 from a victims’ compensation fund – as if Marr had anything to do with it. He didn’t.

Imagine the ad that could have been produced if Marr had voted against the Olympic marmot proposal. Here’s a possibility: “Chris Marr hates schoolchildren. Marr viciously stomped on the dreams of fourth- and fifth-graders at Wedgwood Elementary School when he voted against their proposal to honor the Olympic Marmot, which is found only on the Olympic Peninsula.”

(Note to campaign workers: It would not be fair to pull the first sentence, use an ellipsis and post it on a mailer so it says: “ ‘Chris Marr hates schoolchildren …’ – Spokesman-Review 10-29-2010.’ ”)

The “marmot issue” really didn’t seem like a prominent campaign topic until this gem arrived in mailboxes. So let’s quickly review Senate Bill 5071 from 2009. Kelly Clark’s fourth-grade class had lobbied the Legislature for years on several proposals as part of her civics lessons. The marmot bill was the first to gain traction and pass. Final votes were 43-4 in the Senate and 84-13 in the House.

The other bills were also popular, judging by votes. The Christmas tree bill, sponsored, in part, by Republican state Sen. Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville, was approved 45-1 in the Senate and 96-0 in the House. Marr was one of six sponsors of the music bill referenced by the ad. It passed 97-0 in the House and 47-0 in the House.

The vote to give the “official ship” designation to a craft actually in Washington (the old official state ship no longer docks in the state) was 94-0 in the House and 44-1 in the Senate.

Claim: “Michael Baumgartner pledged to outlaw all abortions – and to not allow women and their families to decide what’s best when facing serious medical complications in their pregnancies.”

Source: Mailer from Healthy PAC, which is funded completely by Safety PAC, which is funded mostly by Service Employees International Union and Planned Parenthood.

Truthfulness: False.

Analysis: This mailer is similar to a few other mostly misleading mailers against Baumgartner paid for mostly by unions through tactics that prevented them from having to list themselves as the top contributors on the ads.

This claim is attributed to a Spokesman-Review article about the Spokane County Republican Party platform and to Human Life of Washington. The platform, which Baumgartner signed, defines life as from “conception until natural death,” but it does not specifically address abortion and whether exceptions should be made in cases where a woman’s life is at risk. Human Life CEO Dan Kennedy said his organization, which endorsed Baumgartner, does not ask candidates about their position about making an exception in cases where a woman’s life is in danger.

Baumgartner said he would make an exception in those cases. He said he would not make an exception in cases of rape. (Marr supports abortion rights and says he agrees with the state’s current laws related to abortion, which do not require minors to notify parents before receiving an abortion.)

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