Huckabee Attack Ad Runs Anyway

Summary
The ad Huckabee said he decided not to run has now appeared at least three times in Iowa anyway. It accuses Romney of being "dishonest" but shades the facts in the process.

Update, Jan. 4: The ad ran at least 10 times on four different stations in Davenport and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Huckabee campaign called those airings a mistake.

In another ad Huckabee claims to have signed the most broad-based tax cut in Arkansas history. But as we've noted repeatedly, he signed bigger tax increases than cuts.

Analysis
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee raised eyebrows Dec. 31 when he told reporters at a news conference that he had decided not to run an attack ad calling rival Mitt Romney "dishonest," then ran it in front of reporters and TV cameras anyway. Now it turns out that the ad actually appeared on at least three Iowa TV stations that same day.

Misleading Claims
At first we decided not to critique the ad because Huckabee told reporters that he decided against running it. By criticizing its claims we would have to repeat them and expose them to a wider audience. But now the ad has aired several times. In it Huckabee accuses Romney of "dishonest attacks" on him. So how honest is Huckabee's attack against Romney?

On one point it is more than a bit misleading. The ad says Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts includes "no executions." That's true, but the reason is that Massachusetts doesn't have a death penalty. Furthermore, Romney tried and failed to get the death penalty reinstated.

The ad also misleads when it holds Romney accountable for the state health care program's coverage of abortion. The Romney campaign points out that the former governor was not the one who made the decision to provide abortion coverage for a $50 co-pay. Indeed, the health care legislation Romney signed declared that an independent agency, the Commonwealth Connector, would implement the law and would "develop criteria for plans eligible for premium assistance payments." (The state subsidizes coverage for those making less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level.)

The ad also is somewhat misleading when the narrator states that Romney's record includes "over $700 million in new taxes." That's not correct. It refers to a Boston Globe story quoting an analyst whose estimate was made up mostly of increases in fees, not taxes. A graphic on screen does state it correctly, saying, "Analyst puts increase in fees, taxes at $700 million." But that's not what the narrator said.

We concede this last point is a minor quibble. We ourselves have been critical of Romney's claim that he didn't raise taxes at all, noting that some of his fees and closing of "loopholes" in corporate taxes look a lot like tax increases, whatever they are called. But Huckabee sets a high bar for himself when he complains in the ad about "Mitt Romney's dishonest attacks on me" and adds that "if a man's dishonest to obtain a job, he'll be dishonest on the job."

On another matter the ad is fairly accurate. Romney did sign an "assault weapon" ban for Massachusetts, and supported a national assault weapons ban and the Brady Bill during his 1994 Senate run. He has since joined the NRA, but has been criticized for falsely claiming that the group endorses his candidacy.

In short, Huckabee uses the word "dishonest" three times to describe Romney's attacks on him, but his own attack falls short of total honesty.

Huckabee the Tax-Cutter?
A second Huckabee ad misses the mark by an even wider margin. In an ad titled "Taxes," Huckabee boasts, "In 160 years in Arkansas we'd never really had a broad-based, widespread tax cut. I was able to sign the first ever." It's true that in 1997, Huckabee championed an income tax reduction that, according to a study by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, saved Arkansas taxpayers $90.6 million the first year it was in effect. That surely qualifies as a broad-based, widespread cut. It's less clear, however, whether that is the first one in 160 years. In 1991, then-Gov. Bill Clinton signed into law a bill that cut income taxes for some of Arkansas' poorest working families and removed many others from the income tax rolls entirely. "Broad-based" and "widespread" can be a matter of interpretation, but to our ears, Huckabee's claim to have authored the first such bill in 160 years is exaggerated.

More to the point, we're weary of pointing out that Huckabee's tenure as governor actually resulted in a $505.1 million net increase in taxes. And it's worth noting that some of those increases were as broad-based and widespread as the cuts. In 2003, for example, Huckabee signed a bill that increased taxes on tobacco and established a 3 percent income tax surcharge. That bill raised $97 million -- or about $6 million more than his broad-based tax cuts saved.

Sources
Associated Press.  "Bill to Restore Death Penalty Fails in Boston." 16 Nov. 2005.

Massachusetts, Commonwealth Connector. Connector Web site.

Massachusetts state law. Chapter 58 of the Acts of 2006, approved 12 Apr. 2006.

Commonwealth Care. Benefits and Copays. Accessed 3 Jan. 2008.

Mooney, Brian C. "Analyst Puts Increase in Fees, Taxes at $700 Million."  The Boston Globe. 27 Sep. 2006.

Associated Press. "Romney to Sign Bill Extending State's Assault Weapons Ban." 30 Jun. 2004.

Helman, Scott. "Romney Retreats on Gun Control." The Boston Globe. 14 Jan. 2007.

Abel, David. "Romney Joined NRA in August." The Boston Globe. 19 Feb. 2007.

Reprinted with permission from factcheck.org

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