Democrats are beginning to reveal how nervous they are about their electoral prospects in November. In their first major involvement in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District special election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spent $34,000 on an attack ad against the Republican candidate, Charles Djou, for signing a “no new taxes” pledge, hardly what sounds like a winning strategy.
The TV ad deliberately mischaracterizes the promise that Mr. Djou made back in July 2009 by claiming it was made to a “special-interest group” to “protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.” In reality, Mr. Djou signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to his constituents. As the pledge clearly states, “I … pledge to the taxpayers of the … district of the state of … and to the American people. …” The pledge is sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, which fights against tax increases as a matter of principle.
The goal behind the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is simple: Make candidates and elected officials put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing. Virtually all candidates for elected office campaign on the promise of tax relief. Why not ask them to put their promise in writing? The extra level of accountability should be refreshing to voters.
The Tea Party protests that began in February 2009 were rooted in the conviction of voters that members of Congress lacked real accountability and would continue to overspend if action was not taken. Candidates like Charles Djou should be applauded for subjecting themselves to this level of accountability in their campaigns.
FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics, also weighed in on the DCCC’s TV ad. Brooks Jackson, director of FactCheck.org, wrote that “we find the ad to be false. The pledge only protects corporations from an increase in taxation overall. It explicitly allows elimination of any specific tax deduction or credit if matched dollar-for-dollar by an overall cut in rates. And it says nothing about jobs.” Mr. Jackson also wrote that “to characterize [Mr. Djou’s] opposition to raising taxes as protecting tax breaks that send jobs abroad is wrong.”
The language of the pledge is simple. A candidate or elected official promises his constituents to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses … and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.” By signing the pledge, candidates are signaling to voters that they recognize the overspending problems in Washington and that their solutions won’t include tax increases. Like every American, the federal government should be required to live within its means.
Currently, 173 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have made the same promise to their constituents, including four congressional Democrats: Reps. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey, Gene Taylor of Mississippi, and Ben Chandler of Kentucky. Interestingly, all four congressional Democrats who signed the pledge have violated it on multiple occasions. Even the president campaigned on his own version of a tax pledge when, as a candidate, he promised to an audience in Dover, N.H., not to raise “any form” of taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year. Unfortunately for taxpayers, he has failed to live up to his word. Just 16 days after assuming office, President Obama signed a cigarette tax into law that raises taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year. In the recently signed health care bill, there are seven violations of his pledge, including a tax increase on special-needs children, health savings accounts and an individual mandate excise tax requiring every American to purchase health care.
So why are Democrats looking to shift the focus of the special election to taxes when they’re clearly on the wrong side of the issue? Simple. Democrats are desperate to take the focus off their job performance in Congress. After spending a year promoting the need to reform health care, the passage of Obamacare did nothing to improve their odds for November.
The latest polls by Rasmussen find that a majority of Americans still support repealing the bill. Polls in dozens of hotly contested congressional races show that health care continues to be a major issue. The unemployment rate still stands at 9.7 percent, AT&T and other major corporations recently announced that the health care bill has caused them to take significant hits to their bottom line this quarter, and internal polls taken by the DCCC have Mr. Djou running even with Democratic favorites Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa. Maybe the DCCC should focus on creating jobs rather than lying to voters about the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Adam Radman is programs and communications manager at Americans for Tax Reform.