Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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Line of Attack: Is it fair to go after Horsford’s record on taxes?

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: Democrat Steven Horsford exhibits poor personal judgment, and his support for the 2009 tax increase hurt Nevada.

Method of delivery: Crossroads GPS, the conservative political group founded by Karl Rove to play in competitive Republican races across the country, finally jumped into the race for Congressional District 4 with this televised ad.

Strategy: Crossroads GPS has been heavily active in the U.S. Senate and the presidential race in Nevada, and it’s interesting that it has started advertising in the CD4 race. Democrats in Nevada’s newest congressional district have a double-digit voter registration advantage. Yet, Horsford has continued to lag behind challenger Danny Tarkanian in public opinion polling, giving Crossroads GPS an opening to bolster the Republican’s candidacy.

Fairness meter: This ad is actually pretty bare-bones. Horsford has come under steady attack this campaign for a raft of ethical missteps, including parking in a handicap zone, flying to Bermuda on a lobbyist’s dime (a trip he later reimbursed the lobbyist for) and sending out a pay-to-play fundraising letter.

Those attacks, however, are absent from this ad. Instead, Crossroads GPS is after Horsford for a potential conflict of interest dating back nearly a decade. Horsford was president of Nevada Partners, a community services agency that received government grants issued by a government board on which Horsford also had a seat.

More than $10 million was granted to Nevada Partners while Horsford held the dual role. Horsford, however, abstained from voting on any grants awarded to Nevada Partners.

When he first ran for state Senate, Horsford stepped down from the government board because of federal rules preventing political candidates from handling government money.

The Crossroads ad leaves out that Horsford abstained from voting on money going to his organization, but otherwise, the facts are legit.

Horsford also is an unapologetic supporter of a 2009 tax increase — which most Republicans also supported — needed to avoid what have been described as “devastating cuts” to education and other government services amid the recession.

Perhaps the only quibble here is that under that tax increase, most small businesses saw a small decrease in payroll taxes.

So, while there’s context for the tax increase, it’s still Legit to go after Horsford’s record on it.

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