Generic pink propaganda:
‘(Fill in the blank) is a big fat pig’
By CINDI ROSS SCOPPE
THE CUSHY pink pigs were stuffed illegally onto mailboxes, necklaced with flyers crying that “State Spending is Out of Control” (“up 10 PERCENT THIS YEAR ALONE!”) and asking: “Why is our legislator, Bill Cotty, voting to spend millions of our tax dollars on beach sand, an arts festival and a football game?”
A better question might be: What is “Conservatives in Action,” and why is it making this stuff up?
Rep. Cotty is the one member of the House who by no stretch of the imagination could be tied to that spending. He recorded the only vote against this year’s final budget bill (after you click on the link, search for the third time the words "record for voting" occur), which contained the money for beach renourishment and the football game and the arts festivals and the 10 percent increase in spending. He also was one of eight House members who voted against the House’s version of the budget, and one of two members of the Ways and Means Committee who voted against it in committee.
This suddenly ubiquitous little group followed up the pigs with post cards showing a stack of cash ablaze and urging voters to call Mr. Cotty and “tell him that you’re tired of him spending your tax dollars like he’s got money to burn” and “tired of him voting against Gov. Sanford and for ‘pork barrel’ projects.” Huh?
Apparently the group not only forgot to check Mr. Cotty’s voting record or notice that he did more than anyone except maybe the speaker to push through this year’s $180 million tax cut. It also forgot to check with its fellow libertarians at the S.C. Club for Growth. Their web site shows that only 27 of the 124 House members voted to sustain more of Mr. Sanford’s 2005 budget vetoes than Mr. Cotty — and just four sustained more of his 2004 vetoes.
“Conservatives in Action” is based in Greenville, and it’s targeting a half-dozen Republican House members statewide.
That explains why it’s running a generic campaign that has nothing to do with how Bill Cotty actually votes. The pigs — and the same cut-and-paste mailings — also showed up in the districts of Lexington Rep. Ken Clark and Upstate Reps. Becky Martin, Gene Pinson, Adam Taylor and Bill Whitmire.
What it doesn’t explain is why the group is targeting him — and the others — at all.
If you just read what it says, you’d think “Conservatives in Action” was going after the worst of the tax-and-spend crowd. But that’s clearly not the case.
Fourteen House Republicans are on the ballot next week, and 11 of them have voted with the governor less than Mr. Cotty. (The other two both voted for this year’s sand-and-festivals budget.) Yet “Conservatives in Action” gave a pass to six of those anti-Sanford, pro-sand Republicans.
The group’s other target is education superintendent candidate Bob Staton, and the only issue on which he and Karen Floyd differ is tax credits for private schools: He’s against them; she’s for them.
Sure enough: The six un-pigged Republicans all voted for last month’s effort to send public money to unaccountable, private schools. The six Republicans on the hit list voted against it.
Welcome to our second consecutive primary election featuring an anti-public schools group that’s hiding behind less controversial issues to lob misleading attacks at GOP legislators who don’t ask “How high?” when it shouts “Jump!”
We first saw this M.O. when Michigan-based “All Children Matter” came after anti-voucher candidates in the 2004 GOP primary. It, too, was careful to focus on such “issues” as their refusal to sign a blood oath to creepy puppetmasters
in Washington swearing to never ever vote to raise a tax so help me God. No mention of vouchers, which don’t poll nearly as well as “State Spending is Out of Control.”
Up until a couple of weeks ago, it looked like the baton had been passed to the ironically named “South Carolinians for Responsible Government,” which had taken over as the face of the voucher/tax credit movement after it became clear that voters weren’t comfortable with a Michigan multi-millionaire trying to dictate school policy in South Carolina. The ostensibly local group started out this spring’s round of attacks on Reps. Cotty, Clark and others by focusing on their alleged attempts to raise taxes or their alleged opposition to the governor’s vetoes.
But then the State Ethics Commission ordered the group to obey the state ethics law, and report its activities.
Suddenly the “Conservatives in Action” name started appearing on the kind of cookie-cutter junk mail that had been coming from SCRG.
The slick little post cards just keep coming. Last week’s piece charges that (fill in the blank) “has developed quite an appetite for spending your money.”
It’s bad enough that the attack dog du jour, like its predecessors, is working hard to hide the fact that its only real goal is to install a voucher-friendly Legislature.
And trying to mislead voters into thinking legislators raised taxes, when in fact they cut them.
And recycling the governor’s bogus 16 percent figure to make spending look like it’s spiraling out of control. (Mr. Sanford admits he’s leaving out some spending when he compares this year’s budget to next year’s; he sees nothing wrong with comparing apples to pineapples to produce a growth number that’s several points higher than reality.)
Such deception has, unfortunately, become commonplace among political operatives.
But in the case of Mr. Cotty — the man who voted against spending any tax money on anything because he thought his colleagues were spending too much of it — even the sleaziest of sleaze-masters couldn’t defend the attacks.
Why do they think they can get away with such obvious lies? Mr. Cotty has a simple explanation: “They’ve targeted us because… they think we’re stupid.”
Ms. Scoppe can be reached at email@example.com or at (803) 771-8571.