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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kline Throws Recycled Mud From the GOP Slime Machine

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

Wow. When I got home yesterday, I discovered not one, but two attack mailers from John Kline, each making completely false attacks on Coleen on the subject of immigration. Here's what each of them said, in a nutshell:

  • "You reward people for good behavior . . . not for breaking the law. But Coleen Rowley will reward illegal aliens with Social Security."
  • "Coleen Rowley wants to sell citizenship to illegal aliens and give them Social Security."

Lacking both a positive vision for America and a record he can be proud of, Kline continues his campaign of unfounded and outright false smear attacks. This attack has several different layers of wrongness, starting with the fact that months ago Kline promised his supporters he would run "an issues oriented, honest campaign".

Let's peel back the layers here.

  1. Coleen Rowley spent 24 years in the FBI enforcing our laws. Before coming to Minneapolis and blowing the whistle on pre-9/11 failures, Coleen fought organized crime in New York. Since age 11, she knew she wanted to be an FBI agent because of her unwavering commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law. So to suggest, as John Kline does, that "Coleen Rowley's answer to the illegal immigration crisis is to reward people for breaking the law" is a smear of the lowest kind.
  2. Nowhere does Kline back up his allegations. He doesn't point to a single statement Coleen has made, or identify a single piece of legislation she's supported. Unfounded smear attacks are the antithesis of "an issues oriented, honest campaign".
  3. So we can only guess what Kline is using as the basis for his attack. He may be referring to Coleen's proposal for an earned path to citizenship for those who are already in the country illegally. Of course, Kline can't mention this plan, because any discussion of the plan would reveal how ridiculous Kline's accusations are:
    I therefore support an earned path to citizenship along the lines of the bipartisan Kennedy-McCain proposal whereby undocumented immigrants in the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2004 seeking residence must satisfy the following criteria:

    • Possess a steady job for six years.
    • Pay a $2,000 fee and all back taxes.
    • Learn English and study American civics.
    • Pass a rigorous criminal and national security background check.

    This is not an amnesty program, and I would oppose any such unearned path to citizenship.

    Coleen has had this position posted on the campaign site for months. Note the complete absence of any discussion about Social Security or "selling citizenship". Also notice that this plan for dealing with the estimated 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally is far more detailed than anything Kline has proposed (more on that later).
  4. It's also possible that Kline is attacking Coleen for her support of a bill which passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support, including the support of such prominent Republicans as John McCain, Bill Frist, and Minnesota's own Norm Coleman. Not to mention George W. Bush.
  5. On the other hand, the McCain/Kennedy bill contains no "plan to give [illegals] taxpayer-funded benefits" as Kline claims --- in fact, it says nothing about Social Security at all. Rather, current law provides that when anyone becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen, any wages they had previously earned while working in the U.S. will be credited toward their Social Security benefits. So Kline's attack in essence boils down to: 1) Criticizing current Social Security law; 2) For paying benefits to U.S. citizens; 3) Based on the taxes they paid into the system.

    In short, Kline is basing his attack quite literally on nothing.
  6. Wait, there's more. Both mailers cite the figure of $5.2 billion in Social Security which "belongs to American citizens" but which Coleen allegedly wants to give to "people who flagrantly broke our laws". Their source for this figure is an August 22, 2006 article in the Washington Post. This same article contains the following nugget:
    In the long run, tax revenue generated by new workers would ease the baby-boom generation's burden on Social Security and offset virtually all the additional spending, said James Horney, a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

    The report "will be problematic," he said. "People who don't like the bill will jump on the 10-year number. But I hope others will look at the longer term and realize in the end, the answer is still the same. It's all a wash."

    One of Kline's mailers bellows that "Coleen Rowley supports a plan that could jeopardize the future of Social Security," when the very source Kline cites says exactly the opposite, and even claims that the addition of new workers to the system will ease the baby-boom generation's burden on Social Security. Furthermore, recall that Coleen's plan would require those working here illegally to pay all back taxes plus a $2,000 fine prior to gaining citizenship. So there's no basis for claiming these new workers will be taking more money out of the system than they put in.
  7. While Kline is hurling wild and baseless allegations at Coleen for her plan to provide an earned path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers currently in the U.S., he is unable to propose an alternative of his own. When local TV host Alan Miller asked Kline this question recently, Kline gave the following puzzling answer:
    "Well, it wouldn't be, I mean, it's a false choice to say we have to let them stay or we have to bus them out. That's not the choice that's there. Many will leave themselves if there's a mechanism for them to come back in . . . ."

    This is a recurrent theme in John Kline's campaign. Coleen provides a plan for dealing with immigration, so Kline attacks it without providing a plan of his own. Coleen champions responsible redeployment from Iraq, so Kline attacks it without explaining how he will change course to achieve an Iraq which is "self-governing, sustainable, and capable of defending itself". Kline whines about things he doesn't like on this very campaign web site, when his own campaign site is completely devoid of substantive content. One can only conclude that Kline believes he will lose more votes by taking a stand on the issues than if he avoids a real discussion of issues altogether.

Finally, it's worth noting that these fliers are part of a broader GOP smear campaign against Democratic challengers. Both FactCheck.org and the StarTribune's Eric Black have debunked this attack.

Two months ago, we challenged John Kline to renounce GOP smear tactics for the balance of the campaign, a challenge that has gone unanswered. It comes as little surprise that Kline's latest attack comes on the same day that Rowley for Congress is showing a powerful surge in the polls.

Update: Rumor has it that Kline is running TV ads (his first of the cycle!) making this same trumped-up smear attack. Two different mass mailings and a TV ad campaign, all focused on the same non-issue. Kline must really be desperate to stop his bleeding in the polls, as well as being desperate to avoid a discussion of the issues that matter, like the bloodshed in Iraq, 46 million Americans without health insurance, and scandal after Republican scandal in Congress.

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