Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2015

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Line of Attack: Did Berkley blow taxpayer dollars on an extravagant trip to Europe?

Editor’s note: 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: Millionaire Shelley Berkley flits around Europe, shopping, drinking Champagne and going to the opera while sticking taxpayers with the bill.

Method of delivery:This new ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee features comical cartoons and depictions of Berkley.

Strategy: Republicans have already laid the groundwork for convincing voters that Berkley has tried to enrich her family through the policies she advocated in Congress—charges the House ethics committee is looking into and that she vehemently denies. So painting her as a millionaire who is capricious with tax dollars plays into that wheelhouse.

Fairness meter: As with most of ads, there is an element of truth to this attack. Berkley and her family are indeed rich. One of the richest members of Congress, even. But that on its own doesn’t make her ineligible for office. (Mitt Romney would be in a heap of trouble if that were the case.)

The more serious charge relates to a 2008 trip Berkley and her husband took to Slovenia and Italy.

She was part of a delegation with 16 other lawmakers as part of the Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue. And taxpayers did pay for it. Newspapers at the time mocked some of the extravagance on the fine hotels and restaurants listed on the itinerary.

“Your hardy band of lawmakers, led by Rep. Shelley Berkley, co-chairman of the TLD, will ease up on Sunday, starting with a ‘short walking tour of old city’ at 10 a.m., followed by a 45-minute boat trip on the Ljubljanica River and a cable ride up to Ljubljana Castle. But then it's back to a grueling three hours of chat about the Middle East and such,” a Washington Post columnist wrote.

The extravagance question is more than legitimate when tax dollars are concerned. Another legitimate questions is why Berkley and her husband met with a prominent lobbyist while on the trip.

Berkley, in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, admitted that she built free time into the itinerary, which also included meeting with American troops, wreath laying and briefings on such things as liquefied gas and global warming.

But as most ads do, this one stretches reality in order to drive home a point.

Berkley paid for the opera herself, she said. The delegation received steeply discounted rooms at the fancy hotels.

And the $55,000 price tag featured prominently in the ad? That’s not for Berkley and her husband. It’s for the entire delegation.

Therefore, the ad itself is extravagant, and earns itself an Eye Roll.

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