DEMOCRATS RETURN FIRE IN CONGRESSIONAL RACES
The House Majority PAC, which supports Democratic congressional candidates, is responding to the LIBRE Initiative's recent TV ads criticizing U.S. Reps. Ron Barber (D-CD2) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1) with a $365,000 ad buy targeting Barber's likely Republican opponent, Martha McSally, and Andy Tobin, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives who is in a three-way race for the GOP nomination to take on Kirkpatrick.
Both ads link Tobin and McSally to Charles and David Koch, who are linked to various non-profits that eventually gave $3.8 million to the LIBRE Initiative, a Texas-based non-profit that purchased roughly $700,000 to run ads featuring Latino actors criticizing the impact of the Affordable Care Act.
The House Majority PAC is spending roughly a quarter-million dollars in CD1 and $115,000 in CD2 on ads drawing the connection between the LIBRE Initiative and the Koch brothers.
"There is no doubt who the Koch brothers want in control of Congress: people who will support their extreme agenda, not stand up for working people," said House Majority PAC spokesman Matt Thornton. "Arizonans have a right to know about the Koch brothers' hidden agenda and why they support certain candidates."
Both Kristen Douglas, a spokeswoman for Team McSally, and LIBRE Initiative's Executive Director Daniel Garza said the ads contained a claim that earned "three Pinocchio's" from the Washington Post earlier this year.
"Democrats are so desperate to prop up Ron Barber's failing campaign that Nancy Pelosi's Super PAC is now repackaging false claims that have already been knocked down by independent fact checkers," Douglas said via email.
Garza called the ads "sheer desperation" in an emailed statement.
"It's shameful that even after independent fact checkers gave Nancy Pelosi's PAC 'three Pinocchios' for its deceptive attack ads, they are recycling the same debunked falsehoods," said Garza, a former staffer for the George W. Bush White House.
The claim in question is whether McSally supports the privatization of Social Security. In a lengthy analysis, Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler determined that McSally's position on changes to Social Security had been so vague that it was impossible to say if she supported privatization of Social Security.
"This ad has rather flimsy evidence to justify the use of such politically-charged code words ('privatizes Social Security in the stock market')," Kessler wrote. "We might have given this ad Four Pinocchios if we had a better sense of McSally's policy proposals, but in any case it's time for Democrats to stop playing this particular scare-seniors card."
The House Majority PAC's Thornton stood by the claim in the ad targeting McSally.
"Martha McSally can try to hide her agenda from Arizonans, but there is a reason the pro-privatization Koch brothers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy this seat," Thornton said. "Voters have a right to know who is funding these unfair attacks on Ron Barber and why."
Meanwhile, Tobin said in a prepared statement that the House Majority PAC's ads "shows just how competitive this race is and how worried national Democrats are that we will replace Ann Kirkpatrick in November. But Arizonans won't fall for these deceptive ads."
Speaking of the LIBRE Initiatives ads: A spokesman for the group took issue with last week's story stating that fact-checkers had debunked one of the ads claims.
In "Latin Swings" (April 10), the Weekly reported that LIBRE's ads said that the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, would "cost more than 2 million jobs across the country."
LIBRE Initiative spokesman Brian Faughnan wrote us to clarify that the ad said there were would be "'over 2 million fewer jobs' due to Obamacare. We did not use the word 'cost.' We did not characterize in any way how those jobs would go away, merely that they would not be in the economy any longer."
Faughnan said that distinction was crucial because the fact-checkers had focused on the use of the word "cost" as it related to the Congressional Budget Office report that estimated that Obamacare would result in more workers deciding to leave the workforce because they would not longer need the health insurance a job would provide.
Since the workers were leaving the workforce voluntarily, various fact checkers had concluded that saying the law would cost people their jobs was a bogus claim.
Faughnan said the LIBRE ads dodged the fact checkers' flag because they did not characterize how the jobs went away but merely noted they would no longer be there. While the CBO report noted that while it might be a good thing for workers to have the option to leave their jobs and find health insurance without depending on their employers, the decision to retire early could have other negative effects on the overall economy.
We'll leave it to Weekly readers to decide for themselves whether the LIBRE ads presented the CBO's findings in proper context.
DASH FOR DOLLARS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITION
This week, we'll see how well the candidates themselves are doing on the fundraising front as campaign-finance reports from the first quarter of 2014 roll in.
Republican Martha McSally had a titanic quarter, raising just short of $450,000. That brings McSally's total haul since the 2014 campaign cycle to more than $1.1 million as she seeks a rematch against Congressman Ron Barber (D-CD2).
McSally did not reveal how much cash the campaign had on hand at the end of the reporting period and a complete FEC report was not available as of our deadline.
"I am honored to announce that our rematch campaign continues to build extraordinary momentum and so many people are willing to invest in my call to duty to serve Southern Arizona in Congress," McSally said in a prepared statement.
Meanwhile, Team Barber pulled in more than $422,000 in the first quarter of the year, meaning it had collected more than $1.6 million for the 2014 cycle. It had more than $1.2 million on hand.
"The reason our campaign has more cash on hand than Martha McSally's is that Southern Arizonans support Ron Barber," said Team Barber spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn. "Since McSally has been adopted by the Koch brothers, she will have a well-funded campaign, and that's why she would do exactly what the Koch billionaires tell her to do if she went to Congress—vote to eliminate the minimum wage, increase health care costs for seniors and raise taxes on middle class families."
Meanwhile, in Congressional District 1 incumbent Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick announced she had raised nearly $325,000 between Jan. 1 and March 31 and had more than $1 million on hand.
"Ann's achievements since returning to office have made a difference in the lives of Arizonans," said Team Kirkpatrick campaign manager Nettie Silleck. "While her opponents campaign on far-right rhetoric and ideology, Ann offers common-sense solutions. Her campaign's strong support is proof that putting constituents first is what matters most to voters."
None of the three Republicans vying to replace Kirkpatrick—House Speaker Andy Tobin, state Rep. Adam Kwasman and rancher/oilman/hotelier Gary Kiehne—had released fundraising figures to the Weekly as of press time.
TROUBLE IN MILLER-LAND
Details remain sketchy, but Jennifer Coyle, the chief of staff for Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller, resigned from her post last week. While accounts vary among our sources, it appears that a personality conflict was at the root of Coyle's decision to step down.
We've also heard that Coyle's resignation may only be the first as other staff members are looking to find work elsewhere.
Miller has had a contentious 2014. Among the incidents: Having a constituent removed from the lobby of the supervisors' 11th office by security after he asked to meet with her; having road-repair dollars removed from projects in District 1 and transferred to Republican Supervisor Ray Carroll's district after she rejected recommendations by the county's transportation staff; and calling 911 because she was unhappy with a Tucson Weekly report.
Unconfirmed reports say that Coyle's replacement will be Jeannie Davis Haldorsen, who served as a spokeswoman for Republican Sean Collins' unsuccessful effort to unseat Carroll in the 2012 primary. Should Haldorsen get the job, her arrival on the 11th floor should make for even more interesting interactions between the District 1 and District 4 offices.
By Jim Nintzel