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Real Jobs attacks on behalf of Republican candidates

Posted October 8, 2012 2:25 p.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2012 4:03 p.m. EDT

— Real Jobs NC, the outside spending group linked to Republican causes, has let loose its first volley of ads in television races. You can see many of them on the group's YouTube channel.

A quick review of FCC public files doesn't show any commercial buys on broadcast stations in the Raleigh market, although they have been spotted on cable channels. 

At least three of the ads are double-billings for a local legislative candidate and Republican Pat McCrory, who is running for governor. Ads for Nathan Ramsey, who is running for a state House seat in the western part of the state, John Szoka, who is running for a state House seat in the Fayetteville area, and Sen. Warren Daniel, who is running for re-election to his Morganton-based seat, all feature McCrory. The ads say that Gov. Bev Perdue and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who is the Democrat running for governor, have wrecked the state's economy and use train images to back up that notion. The bulk of the commercial is spent talking up the legislative candidate and McCrory as alternatives. 

In other races, the Real Jobs ads are classic attacks. None appear to offer outright falsehoods, but a little context would be useful in understanding the claims.

For example, both Sen. Doug Berger and Rep. Marian McLawhorn are Democratic incumbents running in swing districts. The Real Jobs commercials focus on votes the pair cast over the past three years. 

The line: "Raising taxes during a recession? Not a good idea. But Sen. Doug Berger thought it was."  

The line: "Remember Marian McLawhorn's vote to raise our taxes $1 billion?" 

The background: We'll leave aside the macro-economic argument about raising taxes in a recession. However, it is true that both McLawhorn and Berger voted for SB 202 in 2009. That was the annual state budget bill and it did include a state sales tax increase that was projected to raise $803.5 million in 2009-10 and $1.06 billion in 2010-11.

The ad is written to make that sound like a huge tax increase. Whether it was or not might depend on your perspective. For consumers that was a one-penny (or one percentage point, if you prefer) increase at the cash register, which amounts to paying $1 more on a $100 purchase. The budget bill made small tweaks to other taxes and fees, but the sales tax increase was by far the biggest change in revenue. 

The line: "Doug Berger even sponsored legislation to raise his own pay, while voting to raise our taxes." 

The background: SB 426 of 2009 would have raised salaries of lawmakers by the same average amount as those of other state workers. So if state workers got a 2 percent raise, legislators would have gotten a 2 percent raise after the next election. It's worth noting that the bill was never heard after being assigned to committee.

Rank and file lawmakers earn $13,951 for their legislative duties, plus an expense allowance of $559 per month.

The line: "Doug Berger voted against bills that help small business owners create new jobs."

The line: "She (McLawhorn) voted against bills that help small business owners create new jobs, even voting against limiting government spending and debt." 

The background: Both commercials targeting McLawhorn and Berger take them to task for voting against the annual budget bill, HB 200, in 2011. Whether the budget would actually "help small business owners create new jobs" requires some bit of interpretation.

The Republican sponsors of the legislation would argue the budget bill included a number of items – including allowing the sales tax increase mentioned earlier in the commercial to expire – that would help small business owners. 

In Berger's commercial, Real Jobs also cites S 33, a bill that limited the damages patients could seek during a medical malpractice suit. McLawhorn's commercial references SB 464, which cuts back on borrowing authorized in the 2009 budget bill. Berger and McLawhorn did vote against the bills in question. 

Old favorites

One other ad targets former lawmaker Cullie Tarleton, a Democratic who is running against Rep. Jonathan Jordan in a rematch of the 2010 race, which Jordan won. This year's anti-Tarleton ad features the lines: "He (Tarleton) voted to spend $200,000 on a Shakespeare festival and $2 million on a playground for polar bears. Real Jobs used the polar bear accusation to great effect in mailers during the 2010 election.

Tarleton did vote for a budget that contained the two items in question. It's worth noting that the Shakespeare festival is the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival in High Point, which has received state support several times. The "polar bear playground" is the polar bear exhibit at the N.C. Zoo. The ad doesn't present any evidence that Tarleton went out of his way to lobby for these items, which were part of a $19.6 billion budget.