The Campaign Spot

Let He Who Has Never Voted for Carter Cast the First Stone

Last month, I wrote a piece about six myths in the race for Republican National Committee chair, including the myth that “ideology is paramount.”

Over at RedState, Rob Bluey unloads on Michael Steele. In addition to issues that few would dispute are legitimate, like Steele’s record while running GOPAC, Bluey expands his criticism to include the liens that were placed on Steele’s house when his consulting business hit financial troubles, Steele’s work with the moderate Republican Leadership Council, his backing of former congressman Wayne Gilchrist, and his declaration that “we have to elect moderates in the party.”

Fine. But if the deciding factor for the next party chair is which one deviated from conservative orthodoxy the least over the course of his career, you’re going to have a close fight. Look hard enough, and you can find evidence of any of these candidates straying from the conservative position.

Ken Blackwell: Before he ran for governor, he sold off his stock in Barr Pharmaceuticals, which makes the morning-after pill, and IGT, the world’s leading maker of slot machines. He gave $80,000 in bonuses to his staff right before he left office, an unprecedented move that his Democratic successor called a waste of taxpayer money. According to the Columbus Dispatch, he backed Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Katon Dawson: Backed Gov. Mark Sanford’s tax plan that would have reduced income taxes but also would have raised the tax on cigarettes 971 percent (that is not a misprint; it was slated to increase from 7 cents to 68 cents per pack) and apply a sales tax to lottery tickets.* He said that Giuliani’s pro-choice views “would not be a disqualifier” in his home state of South Carolina.

Mike Duncan: Worked in a party-sharing deal with Sen. Mel Martinez, whose term as general chairman was most noted for his criticism of the party’s base on illegal immigration. He backed Bono’s ONE Vote program, which includes a call to divert an additional one percent of the federal budget on foreign aid.

Chip Saltsman: He was the campaign manager for Mike Huckabee, a campaign that drove free-market conservatives to tear their hair out. (Saltsman said that his work for Huckabee doesn’t define him.)

Saul Anuzis: Former Michigan Senate candidate Jerry Zandstra claims Anuzis told him to “cool his jets” on affirmative action and abortion, a claim Anuzis denies. On illegal immigration, Anuzis told the Washington Times, “I would not oppose a system to legalize them and give them a different status to work and pay taxes here . . . but no citizenship.” He was a Teamster.

And in detailing Steele’s apostasies, Bluey missed the fact that Michael Steele once worked on one of Marion Barry’s campaigns.

Having written this, I’m sure I’ll get e-mails from press guys for the various RNC candidates protesting, “Hey, my guy’s deviations from conservative orthodoxy are small potatoes and completely different from the other guys!” in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

UPDATE: A representative of Mark Sanford writes in, saying part of that wasn’t their idea: “The Governor proposed raising SC’s lowest-in-the-nation cig tax by 30 cents to a total of 37 cents, not 68 cents per pack as you write. This tax increase, if the Gov’s plan is accepted, would be offset by an optional flat tax – cutting individual rates from 7% to 3.65%… For context, the Governor last Spring vetoed a cig tax increase sent to us by the legislature that expanded Medicaid – unsustainable – and did not offer a corresponding tax decrease, something to which Governor Sanford has and will remain committed. As well, your comment about applying a sales tax to lottery tickets is confusing – this was not part of Gov. Sanford’s tax proposal, and I can’t remember when or if we’ve ever discussed this.”

My source for the tax plan details was an article in The State newspaper, “Sanford Tax Plan Support Not As Solid as Touted,” by Aaron Gould Sheinin and Jennifer Talhelm, November 14, 2003.

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