October 3, 2005

National GOP Going After Laffey II

Marc Comtois

As mentioned earlier, the National Republican Senate Election Committee has launched an ad campaign against Cranston Mayor and Senate challenger Steve Laffey. Laffey has responded. After remarking upon the "head-scratcher" that the national GOP would spend money to attack him instead of Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, Laffey turned to the specifics of the ad:

Let me say a word about the ads. If you look at my TV ad, the only thing I speak out against regarding oil companies is the billions of dollars in tax breaks that the Washington politicians give them. I have never raised any objection to people having the freedom to own stock in oil companies. And I think Americans should have the freedom to drive whatever kind of car they choose. The thing that I do strongly object to is when Washington politicians like Lincoln Chafee vote in favor of billions in tax breaks for the oil companies costing Americans BILLIONS of dollars.

Letís take a look at the record. I have owned oil company stocks, and so has Lincoln Chafee (and so too, by the way, has Sheldon Whitehouse). So, as I see it, weíre pretty much the same on those counts. Hereís the big difference. I have never voted to give billions in tax breaks to the oil companies, and on June 28th of this year, Lincoln Chafee voted for the Senate Energy Bill which gave $2.8 billion in tax breaks to oil and gas companies while theyíre already making record profits. And hereís another big difference -- I have never taken any campaign contributions from oil companies, and Lincoln Chafee has taken tens of thousands of dollars, including thousands from Exxon Mobil and Halliburton.

Now, you tell me whatís worse, a guy whose family has an SUV because he has five kids, two dogs, and a cat, or a guy like Lincoln Chafee who voted to give billions in tax breaks to the oil companies and pockets tens of thousands in campaign contributions from them.

Hereís what I want to do. Instead of hiding behind the negative attack ads from his cronies in Washington, why doesnít Lincoln Chafee join me in a debate on the issues right here in Rhode Island? I read recently that the Senator decided to move back to Rhode Island this year so he could campaign for reelection. Well, thatís just fine. Back in Rhode Island weíre always happy to see the Washington politicians who are supposed to be representing us. I challenge Senator Chafee to call on his Washington allies to stop polluting Rhode Island with their negative ads.

And I challenge Lincoln Chafee to a series of debates. Iíll debate him at any VFW hall, any coffee shop, or any bowling alley in Rhode Island. And if it will make him feel more comfortable, Iíll even debate him at the yacht club of his choice.

The serious point here is that whether itís on energy policy, or tax policy, or a host of other issues, Lincoln Chafee and I have real differences. The people of Rhode Island will be much better served if we have a series of debates on the issues rather than seeing a yearís worth of negative TV ads from Washington political bosses who donít know a thing about Rhode Island.

Politically, it's a decent response, though the references to Halliburton and ExxonMobil is nothing but a gratuitous political play for those who think all big business is bad...and probably won't vote for Laffey anyway. It's a hand he continues to play and one that may really give him no political benefit. Nonetheless, I did smirk at the mention that Senator Chafee actually decided to reside in Rhode Island during this election! (Dan Yorke doesn't call him the Senator from Virginia for nothing). Regardless of Laffey's ploy of calling for Lincoln-Douglas debates, to which I doubt very much Chafee will agree, we should all prepare to be assaulted by "vicious attack ads" from both sides for the next 12 months. It will make for some interesting theater, no doubt. Of course, as Yorke keeps mentioning, there is still no guarantee that Laffey will actually run in the Republican primary. . .

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It is technically correct to say that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is not the RNC. However, to say that one doesn't have anything to do with the other would be foolish. That the Projo story seems blur the line, for a public that has largely never even heard of them, is simply not good journalism on their part.

The NRSC's main purpose is essentially to act as a PAC, made up of incumbent Republican senators, to protect their own interests, no matter how flawed, unprincipled, or disloyal their members might be. I can't imagine what they are thinking (or if they're thinking). All this looks like is a bunch of Washington insiders trying to prop up someone who can't seem to stand on his own -- which is exactly what it is.

I attended Mayor Laffey's news conference this afternoon, which was right in front of Sen. Linc Chafee's Providence office. He challenged the senator (who I don't believe is in RI at present) to have the NRSC withdraw the negative ad immediately. The ad basically attacks Laffey for having had a successful career. Laffey doesn't have anything to be ashamed of. He earned everything he has; Chafee had it handed to him. In the words of Ann Coulter (not mine): "If Chafee hadn't inherited hundreds of millions of dollars, he would be living in a shack tending weeds."

Laffey was on the offensive today; not on the defensive, which is exactly where he needs to be right now. I'm glad that he didn't let their attempt at smearing him go unchallenged. That is one of the character traits that I like about Laffey: he's willing to stand up for himself and what he believes in, and he does it brilliantly. I'm fairly certain that the NRSC's ham-handed attempt at inserting themselves in RI will backfire. At least they are only wasting their money doing this, instead of ours for a change! Hard to believe it's only October 2005!

Posted by: Will at October 3, 2005 4:28 PM