By Wayne Hoffman
Idaho Freedom Foundation
Two Idaho candidates, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and state Rep. Luke Malek, take the prize for political misdirection and distortion. Each candidate is carefully constructing a political narrative he believes will win over voters in the May 15 GOP primary.
The problem is, each man is distorting the truth.
First, Lt. Gov. Brad Little. During a debate on the government television station, Little claimed to be a big tax cutter. In reality, Little’s tax-cutting record is pretty slim. Little voted to raise sales and cigarette taxes during the 2003 recession. He later voted to keep the “temporary” cigarette tax hikes in place. In 2015, he supported the fuel tax and registration fee increases that passed.
On the campaign trail, Little often touts his 2006 to raise the sales tax in exchange for the elimination of the maintenance and operation property-tax levy for most Idaho school districts. At the time, this did constitute a tax reduction of about $50 million. However, though not Little’s fault nor that of any of the legislators who supported the bill that passed during the 2006 special legislative session, school districts have since passed nearly $200 million in supplemental property tax levies. These levies have thus negated the tax relief as it was contemplated 12 years ago. Therefore, on tax reduction matters, Little has almost nothing to show.
During a TV debate, Little talked up his executive order that called for a review of the state’s growing list of occupations that require a license. Little conveniently neglected to mention all of his votes that contributed to that licensure list.
Though not necessarily part of my policy focus, Little curiously has made being “pro-traditional marriage” a central theme of his campaign. He, of course, neglects to tell voters—and reporters either don’t know or won’t remind him of it—that he cast the deciding vote in 2004 to keep a “traditional marriage constitutional amendment” off the general election ballot. He voted against the amendment again in 2005.
The other award for record distortion goes to congressional candidate Luke Malek, who days ago launched a petulant and hopelessly false attack on that race’s frontrunner, former state Sen. Russ Fulcher. In a TV ad, Malek falsely portrays himself as an anti-Obamacare warrior.
In reality, Malek led the charge to create an Obamacare insurance exchange in Idaho, after lying to me about his opposition to the same. Malek’s erroneous claim is that somehow his highly-controversial vote has kept Obamacare at bay. In reality, Idaho remains the only Republican-controlled state in the country to create an insurance exchange, thus helping cement the Obamacare law in place. Indeed, no state in the country looks at Idaho’s insurance exchange as stopping Obamacare’s high insurance premiums and federal control. Like other states, Idaho faces the same problems associated with the federal insurance law as other states, the only difference being that Malek forced Idaho to partner with President Barack Obama on his quest toward full Obamacare compliance and implementation.
Additionally, Malek bills himself as a conservative Republican. Virtually everyone who follows politics in Idaho knows that’s not true. Since his first legislative session in 2013, Malek has accrued among the lowest Freedom Index scores. In sum, Malek favors legislation that grows the size and scope of government more than he supports free markets and lower taxes. Year after year, Malek has more often voted with liberal Democrats than with conservative Republicans.
The types of distortions made by Little and Malek are reflective of political reality. Politicians and their handlers know most people are too busy to fully study the records of candidates for office, so they produce slick TV and radio ads and bounce around poll-tested soundbites and talking points about how conservative they are. Politicians predict, all too accurately, that the news media won’t hold them accountable for their inaccuracies.
Both Little and Malek are affable and intelligent men. Among their records are actions of which conservatives probably approve. But, neither candidate is conservative, and in the weeks remaining before this election, they should run on the record they have and not the record they think Republican primary voters would wish they had.