Heritage Says Obama Ad ‘Falsely’ Portrays Conservative Group’s Position on Tax Plan
October 29, 2008 - 8:56 PMTV spot claims "even conservatives" think the middle class would be better off under Obama's tax plan.
(CNSNews.com) - The conservative Heritage Foundation and the Obama campaign are at odds over a quote that is airing in an Obama television ad on taxes.
It’s a quote that the conservative think-tank claims to be false and inaccurate – and wants removed from the ad -- but which the Obama campaign is defending as fair and accurate.
In the 30-second TV spot, a voice-over announcer says: “Even leading conservatives say Obama’s plan is better for the middle class . . .”
The accompanying video graphic in the ad says “Heritage Foundation Analyst: ‘. . . the middle class would likely pay less under Mr. Obama’s plan…’ -- New York Sun, 8/15/08.’”
A similar print ad on the Obama campaign Web site specifically names Heritage policy analyst Rea Hederman Jr., and attributed to him the quote -- “the middle class would likely pay less under Mr. Obama's plan than Mr. McCain's."
In a letter to the Obama campaign, Heritage attorney Alan Dye said the ad “misrepresents the views” of the conservative think-tank.
“In fact, Mr. Hederman never said what is quoted there,” Dye wrote. “Rather, the words you quote are from a New York Sun reporter who interviewed Mr. Hederman and summarized his views erroneously.”
In the Aug. 15 Sun article, writer Russell Berman wrote:
“A senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Rea Hederman Jr., praised Mr. Obama for proposing a 20 percent tax rate on dividends and capital gains, lower than a 28 percent rate he had initially floated, though still more than the current 15 percent rate.
“ ‘That's a great step in the right direction,’ Mr. Hederman said. ‘It's a big change from what we thought the Obama tax plan would be at the beginning of the summer.’
“‘Mr. Hederman said the middle class would likely pay less under Mr. Obama's plan than Mr. McCain's but that the Democrat was excessively reliant on complicated tax breaks that would make the tax code more confusing. ‘Instead of a grab bag of tax credits, lower the marginal rates,’ Mr. Hederman said.”
Dye accused the Obama campaign of playing fast and loose with the facts in the ad.
"That the reporter’s summary is erroneous is evident from the actual quotes from Mr. Hederman presented in the article, which make it quite clear that Mr. Hederman believes your tax plan would be bad not only for the country, but for the middle class.
“By omitting the direct quotes from Heritage that are contained in the article and attributing to Heritage a conflicting statement not made by its analyst, the advertisement appears to be an intentional attempt to mislead,” Dye said.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton did not respond to CNSNews.com’s request for comment, but did talk to ABC News Senior Political Correspondent Jake Tapper, who quoted him as saying the quote came from a New York Sun piece – and the campaign is sticking by it.
“I don’t know of any correction or clarification The Sun ever ran that Russell Berman’s reporting was wrong,” ABC quoted Burton as saying, adding that the title of the article –(Heritage Hails ‘Great Step in the Right Direction’) -- “leaves the unmistakable perception that Mr. Hederman was praising aspects of our tax plan.”
Burton said the Obama campaign interprets “paying less” in taxes as being “better off.”
Moreover, the campaign spokesman was quoted as saying the voice-over in the ad was a reference not just to Heritage and Hederman, but to “ repeated articles in the National Review” and to “the conservative Tax Foundation’s finding that McCain’s plan leaves out 101 million tax filers.”
Spokesmen for National Review and the Tax Foundation were not immediately available.
In an interview late Wednesday, however, CNSNews.com asked Hederman what he actually said about the Obama plan – and whether the Sun had misrepresented him.
“You know, I think there are some people in the middle class that would get additional income from Sen. Obama’s plan, because he has refundable tax credits,” Hederman responded, adding however that he does not endorse the Obama plan.
“My point, which I think that Russell (Berman) actually captures, is that tax credits (are) a way to greatly complicate the tax code. That makes the tax code more confusing -- people wouldn’t be sure how much of a tax credit they would get, if anything they would get, and there’s a much better way to conduct tax policy than a grab-bag of tax credits that turns the IRS into a kind of Santa Claus by just redistributing income.”
“The problem is, the criticism in the sentence (was) never used by the Obama campaign,” Hederman said. “They just used the one segment, where I talked about how some middle-class people might get additional income from the Obama campaign (plan), and they used that as the full slant of the story.”
Writer Russell Berman was not immediately available for an interview. The New York Sun went out of business in September.