Friday, September 21, 2012

TOP STORY >> D.C. lobby enters local race

Leader senior staff writer

Secretive Republican Super PACs, like Americans for Prosperity, could spend $250,000 by Election Day to try to foil state Rep. Barry Hyde’s bid for the state Senate in November, Hyde said Friday.

Already they they have sent two mailings attacking him with falsehood and innuendo, he said, spending an estimated $60,000.

And Hyde is just one of at least half-a dozen Democrats targeted around the state, including state Rep. Jim Nickels of Sherwood.

Hyde said residents in his district are receiving dishonest direct-mail fliers from the Washington-area Super PAC using misleading information accusing him of voting for what it calls the expensive Affordable Care Act and suggesting voters call him to express their displeasure.

“While we need genuine reform, we can’t afford the president’s trillions and send more of our healthcare decisions to Washington,” the flier read. “So why did Barry Hyde support President Obama’s Healthcare Plan?”

Hyde may or may not personally support the Affordable Care Act, he said, but it’s the law now. Neither he nor any other state legislator voted for it, he said. That was the job of Congress.

The fliers don’t mention his opponent, state Rep. Jane English, a Republican, who recently moved into the district from north Pulaski County.

Hyde, a North Little Rock Democrat, and English are seeking the seat vacated by state Sen. Mary Ann Salmon, who is term limited.

English said neither she nor her campaign was consulted on the attack from the conservative out-of-state PAC that is the political arm of the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers. David Koch founded the Tea Party movement.

“I’ve not seen any of those things,” English said Friday of the fliers. “I never received a copy.”

“I have no control over that. I’ve done my own mailouts, Barry has — lots of folks on all sides. It’s the political season.”

Neither Hyde, Nickels nor any other state legislator in Arkansas voted for the Affordable Care Act — some call it Obamacare. It was an act passed by Congress, signed by the president and found to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Every allegation is poorly researched and far out there,” Hyde said. “They aren’t trying to pass facts on; they want to mislead. They want voters to think a vote against Barry Hyde is a vote against Barack Obama.” State Democratic Party chairman Will Bond said, “They are trying to nationalize local elections.”

According to Candace Martin, spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, “These PACS share one thing in common. They don’t have any accountability to the public; they don’t have to disclose donors and they don’t have to check any of their facts.

“We’ve seen some mailings throughout the state,” Martin said. “Previous ones have been criticized in the media for being misleading in nature. But they mail regardless of whether or not they have a commitment to the truth.”

From that flier attacking Hyde: “The simple truth Arkansas can’t afford Pres. Obama’s health-care plan, so why did Barry Hyde vote to support it? On March 29, 2011, Barry Hyde voted for House Bill 1226 spending millions to set up the key part of Pres. Obama’s health-care plan in the state of Arkansas.”

House Bill 1226 was the annual funding bill for the state Insurance Department, and some Republicans threatened to scuttle the bill — which they could do with 25 votes — unless the Democratic leadership agreed not to include about $1 million to study state implementation of health exchanges, Hyde said.

“The connection they are trying to draw is that the department obtained a $1 million grant to study health-care exchanges — required by the Affordable Care Act,” Hyde said.

“If there has to be an exchange we should do it in Arkansas,” Hyde said. “We want Arkansans in charge of Arkansas’ health care. We are sure Arkansans would be more frugal in developing the exchange. Since we didn’t vote to study a local exchange, it will be done in Washington, D.C. by default, he said.

He said English didn’t vote for it — or against it. She abstained.

“I voted for the appropriation for the insurance department, but half of the Republicans voted as well to approve department of insurance,” Hyde said.


“It’s very dangerous when out-of-state billionaires try to take over the Arkansas Legislature,” Nickels said Friday.

He said that in the previous mailer, Americans for Prosperity said he and other Democrats had voted for a diesel tax.

“We didn’t vote for the diesel tax. We voted on whether to let the people tax themselves a quarter-penny for better roads,” Nickels said. That referred act will be before voters on the November ballot.

“The only thing correct on that flier was my name and phone number,” he said. Of the few constituents who called, most were supportive after he explained the situation to them.