In a number of television ads, Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt — both conservative U.S. House members by almost every measurement — are trying to depict each other as unqualified to lead because of past votes.
It’s a tall task to untangle these claims lodged during the men’s campaign for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
The question for voters is how much credence should be put into these ads as the Aug. 3 primary approaches. Another question that might occur to voters is what does it say about the candidates who use these tactics?
Here are two recent ads by the candidates and the accusations they level against each other.
Moran ad attacking Tiahrt
“We all support people who come here legally, but the flow of illegal immigrants across our borders is costing taxpayers billions and putting our security at risk.
“In Congress, Todd Tiahrt supported amnesty for illegal immigrants and benefits like lower in-state college tuition for illegals.
“Jerry Moran believes we should secure the borders, enforce our laws and send lawbreakers to the back of the line.”
The opening sentence is debatable. There are many studies that show the presence of undocumented, low-wage workers benefits the country by keeping down the price of goods, such as groceries.
The Moran campaign cites Tiahrt’s position because of Tiahrt’s co-sponsorship of H.R. 1918 in 2002 and H.R. 1684 in 2003.
These pieces of legislation were the Student Adjustment Act and later came to be known as the Dream Act. They allowed in-state tuition for the children of some undocumented immigrants, and provided a way toward permanent residency. The federal legislation was similar to laws that were approved in some states, including Kansas. The federal legislation, however, has never been enacted.
Tiahrt and 61 other House members co-sponsored H.R. 1918, and he was among 152 House members who co-sponsored H.R. 1684. U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who is now running for governor of Kansas, has also been a supporter of the Dream Act.
But Tiahrt says his position on this issue has changed and that he now doesn’t support the bill.
“A long time ago I thought it was compassionate to not punish the children for the parents’ sins,” Tiahrt said during a recent debate.
But, he said, he has listened to arguments from fellow Kansans that illegal immigration is hurting the nation. The first step in solving the problem of illegal immigration, he says, is “build the fence.”
The debate over illegal immigration has become more heated since the passage of a law in Arizona that allows police to ask people whom they’ve stopped to verify their residency status. Polls show a majority of Americans support this law and oppose President Barack Obama’s challenge of the law.
Tiahrt ad attacking Moran
“Here in Kansas we’re taught to stand up for what we believe. Yet where my opponent and I stand is very different. He votes to raise taxes and I will do everything I can to cut them.
“He votes to give terrorists constitutional rights. I believe terrorists deserve no rights.
“And where he saw promise in Pelosi taking over Washington I saw nothing but trouble and said so.”
Some of Tiahrt’s tax claim against Moran is based on Moran’s vote in 2003 against a budget resolution that assumed continuance of President Bush’s tax cuts. Moran says he voted for Bush’s tax cuts at other times but against the resolution because it also increased spending and the deficit. In an opinion piece he wrote shortly after the vote, Moran said, “Many of my fellow conservative colleagues often say that by cutting taxes, we reduce the size of government. But this is only true if the government spends less when it has less to spend.”
Tiahrt accuses Moran of voting to give terrorists constitutional rights because of Moran’s vote in 2006 against setting up military tribunals to try suspected terrorists. Moran has said he voted against the legislation because he thought it was unconstitutional and could result in terrorists being set free.
Tiahrt bases his claim that Moran said he “saw promise in Pelosi taking over Washington” on a 2006 article in the Topeka Capital-Journal. The article was about how Moran survived the wave of Democratic victories. Moran’s 79 percent of the vote was one of the largest for Republicans in that election.
The article stated: Moran now doesn’t seem to mind the Democratic takeover in Congress. He said he would have preferred Republicans had won but that the change should be good for the country. “It presents new opportunities and challenges for me that I find appealing,” he said.