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July 30, 2015

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election 2012:

Line of Attack: Is it fair to characterize Heck as callous toward rape victims?

Line of Attack is a weekly feature in which we parse a political attack, looking at the strategy behind it, how the campaign is delivering it and what facts support or refute it. We’ll assign it a rating on the fairness meter: Legit, Eye Roll, Guffaw, Laughable or Outrageous.

Attack: Rep. Joe Heck has a record of voting against victims of rape.

Method of delivery: Heck’s Democratic opponent, Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, launched the vicious television ad Monday, as first reported by Jon Ralston. It features an advocate for domestic abuse victims asking why Heck voted against a rape crisis center and funding for domestic abuse victims and saying he wanted to restrict rape victims’ access to abortions. “Maybe he’s never had to look in their eyes,” the woman says. “But if Joe Heck doesn’t stand up for them — just who is he standing up for?”

Strategy: This attempt to villainize Heck on rape — which is about as serious a charge in a campaign as you can level — is an appeal to women voters in the district. The ads echo Democrats’ attacks in 2008, when Heck was a state senator, that implied Heck was ambivalent toward cancer because of his votes against requiring insurance companies to cover HPV vaccinations.

Fairness meter: First, the claim that Heck voted against funding a rape crisis center and a domestic violence prevention program. At issue is a bill at the end of the 2007 legislative session. Like almost every other year, leftover money was bundled together in a big bill to fund special projects — sometimes referred to as pork. Among the 42 projects in Senate Bill 579 — which included community centers, park projects, $150,000 for an “Online Nevada Encyclopedia” — was $250,000 for a rape crisis center and $200,000 for a nonprofit group’s domestic violence prevention program.

Heck was one of only two senators to vote against the bill.

Heck, his campaign said in a statement, voted against the bill because it was introduced only a few hours before the Legislature ended.

“While there were a number of quality provisions,” Heck’s campaign said in a statement, “the truth is taxpayers have every right to expect a more substantial consideration of spending bills.”

The second part of the ad is that Heck “tried to restrict rape victims’ access to abortion.”

The ad references House Resolution 3, from 2011, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” That bill, which did not become law, clearly would allow for taxpayer-funded abortions in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother. The bill: "Excludes from such prohibitions (taxpayer funding for abortions) an abortion if: (1) the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.”

Oceguera’s campaign said this bill could have led to the IRS investigating the cause of rapes, pointing to progressive groups’ blog posts.

All in all, there’s scant evidence that Heck’s vote would have restricted access to abortions for victims of rape.

The final charge is that Heck has never had to face a victim of rape. Heck, who was an emergency room physician, “was often the first person to look into the eyes of, treat, and care for hundreds of victims of rape and domestic violence,” Heck’s campaign said.

To accuse someone of being soft on rape is about as inflammatory an attack as we can imagine in a campaign. And if you make that charge, there should be some strong backup. So we label this ad Outrageous.

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