Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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: Republican congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian thinks “getting elected is more important than paying his bills,” by avoiding a $17 million judgment and sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into his own campaign.
Method of Delivery: Yes, the constant barrage of television attack ads can seem overwhelming, but there’s one perhaps even more invasive form of campaign advertising—the robo-call. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided the robo-call was the best strategy for delivering this attack.
Strategy: Republicans are after Tarkanian’s Democratic opponent Steven Horsford for a series of ethically-questionable decisions he has made, such as parking his car in a handicap space and flying to the Bahamas on the dime of an online poker company-- a trip for which he paid the company back after the fact. The GOP’s accusatory tagline on Horsford: He plays by his own rules.
So, to both turn the tables on Tarkanian and further muddy the waters, Democrats co-opted that tag line for their robo-call, accusing Tarkanian of thinking “he should get to play by a different set of rules than the rest of Nevadans.”
Fairness Meter: There’s nothing wrong with the facts in this robo-call. Yes, the court has ordered Tarkanian and his family to pay a $17 million judgment stemming from a complicated bank loan they took out as part of a failed real estate deal. Yes, Tarkanian spent $260,000 of his own money on his 2010 campaign.
What’s left out of the call is that Tarkanian and his family continue to fight the $17 million judgment in court, where he is arguing he was defrauded in the land deal. Tarkanian likely would have an extreme difficulty in paying that $17 million sum.
It’s perfectly legit for voters to evaluate Tarkanian’s judgment in entering the real estate deal in the first place. But it could be considered a bit premature to accuse Tarkanian of refusing to pay his bills while he pursues the case in court.
All in all, the line of attack earns an eye roll.