Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Don't Like Mike

The thorn in my side this election is Mike Huckabee. I tiptoed around it for a long time and tried to play nice and assumed the truth will out. Well, it’s not outing fast enough. We have a primary in less than a month, folks. And too many Christians have been deceived. So here is a list. No commentary (or very little), no personal attacks, merely a statement of facts. Mike Huckabee is a Southern Baptist ordained minister who is not afraid to say on CNN that that Jesus is the only way to Heaven and that killing babies is wrong. For that, I applaud him. And now for everything else that Huck has done (sources listed at the end). In the 1992 contest with Bumpers, Huckabee used campaign funds to pay himself as his own media consultant. Other payments went to the family babysitter. In his successful 1994 run for lieutenant governor, he set up a nonprofit curtain known as Action America so he could give speeches for money without having to disclose the names of his benefactors. He failed to report that campaign travel payments were for the use of his own personal plane. After he became governor in 1996, he raked in tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, including gifts from people he later appointed to prestigious state commissions. He converted a governor's mansion operating account into a personal expense account, claiming public money for a doghouse, dry-cleaning bills, panty hose and meals at Taco Bell. He tried to claim $70,000 in furnishings provided by a wealthy cotton grower for the private part of the residence as his own, until he learned ethics rules prevented it. Arkansas' Ethics Commission has admonished Huckabee for violations five times in 14 years, once for taking money from an organization whose donors have never been listed. (By the way, some local candidates might take some wisdom away from this lesson – political donations are matters of public record, and it’s an ethical violation to try and hide that from even one person, not just in Arkansas but in Oklahoma as well. This is the small bit of commentary I mentioned. Moving on….) The state Ethics Commission has investigated 14 complaints against Huckabee and validated five. Two pertain to unreported gifts - a $500 canoe and a $200 stadium blanket - and three to cash the governor or his wife received but did not initially report: • $43,150 from his 1994 lieutenant governor's campaign for use of his personal airplane, • $14,000 Janet Huckabee received from his 1992 U.S. Senate campaign, and • $23,500 from a tax-exempt organization he incorporated with others in 1994, but whose funding source isn't known. The Action America organization, Huckabee said, was set up to coordinate parts of his private-sector speaking schedule during his three years as lieutenant governor. Huckabee appealed the stadium blanket sanction and a judge threw out the $250 fine. Immediately upon taking office, Governor Huckabee signed a sales tax hike in 1996 to fund the Games and Fishing Commission and the Department of Parks and Tourism (Cato Policy Analysis No. 315, 09/03/98). He supported an internet sales tax in 2001 (Americans for Tax Reform 01/07/07). He publicly opposed the repeal of a sales tax on groceries and medicine in 2002 (Arkansas News Bureau 08/30/02). He signed bills raising taxes on gasoline (1999), cigarettes (2003) (Americans for Tax Reform 01/07/07), and a $5.25 per day bed-tax on private nursing home patients in 2001 (Arkansas New Bureau 03/01/01). He proposed another sales take hike in 2002 to fund education improvements (Arkansas News Bureau 12/05/02). He opposed a congressional measure to ban internet taxes in 2003 (Arkansas News Bureau 11/21/03). In 2004, he allowed a 17% sales tax increase to become law (The Gurdon Times 03/02/04). Huckabee backed and signed into law a 2001 bill requiring a “quality assurance fee,” which was a $5.25 fee per bed, per day for nursing homes designed to increase funding for the state Medicaid program. Arkansas media outlets and state legislators dubbed it the “bed tax,” and in fact, Huckabee himself has called it that on at least one occasion. By the end of his ten-year tenure, Governor Huckabee was responsible for a 37% higher sales tax in Arkansas, 16% higher motor fuel taxes, and 103% higher cigarette taxes according to Americans for Tax Reform (01/07/07), garnering a lifetime grade of D from the free-market Cato Institute. On January 28, 2007, Governor Huckabee refused to pledge not to raise taxes if elected President, first on Meet the Press and then at the National Review Conservative Summit. Under Governor Huckabee's watch, state spending increased a whopping 65.3% from 1996 to 2004, three times the rate of inflation (Americans for Tax Reform 01/07/07). The number of state government workers rose 20% during his tenure (Arkansas Leader 04/15/06), and the state's general obligation debt shot up by almost $1 billion, according to Americans for Tax Reform. Huckabee also presided over 21 tax increases…[which] totaled much more than $378 million. According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the "net tax increase under Huckabee's tenure was an estimated $505.1 million," adjusted for inflation. He was kind to immigrants and favored state help for college-going children of illegal immigrants. He once even briefly departed from Republican dogma to suggest to a newspaper in libertarian New Hampshire that, while he opposed gay marriage, he was open to civil unions. [T]he comment is on tape. After a GOP state senator put forth legislation to ban state services for illegal immigrants, the governor said the senator drank a different "Jesus juice" than him. He professed opposition to alcohol and gambling, but he allowed passage of legislation that made it easier for restaurants to obtain private-club mixed-drink permits in dry counties. Over the angry objection of the church lobby, he sped final action on a bill to allow video poker at the state's racetracks, an act followed not long afterward by a $10,000 campaign contribution from the owner of the state's biggest race track, at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs. Though Huckabee doesn't support embryonic stem cell research, he took a hefty honorarium and bulk book sales this year from a diabetes drug maker, Novo Nordisk, which performs embryonic stem cell research. He left Arkansas with a bill of more than $40 million for overcharges of the federal government's Medicaid program. In "Character Is the Issue," published in 1997, he complained bitterly about how some congregants of the Baptist church he left in Texarkana to seek public office didn't want to continue paying his health insurance. Funny, no employer of mine ever kept paying me after I quit work. (Again, small bit of commentary, but this isn’t mine. It’s part of the quote. I left it in because it made me smile.) More disturbing is Governor Huckabee's support for the 2003 Republican-initiated Medicare prescription drug plan, a huge unfunded liability shouldered by taxpayers across America (HumanEvents.com 02/28/06). Governor Huckabee has consistently supported and initiated measures that increase government's interference in markets, thereby impeding economic growth. He told the Washington Times he supports "empowering people to make their own decisions," but many of his key proposals have done just the opposite (Washington Times 03/01/05). These measures include: o Raised the minimum wage in April 2006 from $5.15 to $6.25 an hour and encouraged Congress to take the same initiative on a national level (US Newswire 08/03/06), a proposal that President Bush and most congressional GOP members oppose. o Sought to take revenue from his tax hike proposal to be used on economic development projects in 2002 (AP, 11/22/02). o Threatened to investigate price-gouging after 9/11 if gasoline prices went up too high (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 09/12/01). o Ordered regulatory agencies in Arkansas to investigate price-gouging in the nursing home industry (AP, 06/15/01). o Signed a bill into law that would prevent companies from raising their prices a mere 10% ahead of a natural disaster. Services like roof repair and tree removal were targeted (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 03/07/97). Governor Huckabee's record on school choice is mixed. On the one hand, he fought hard to protect the rights of parents to home school their children and was a vocal proponent of charter schools (Arkansas Time 09/22/05). In 1997, he supported a proposal that would expand charter school eligibility to include public and private universities, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations (AP 02/12/97). He signed legislation in 1999 that allowed for as many as 12 charter schools to be established in Arkansas, an important achievement given the state's onerous laws governing charter schools (Time 07/10/00). On the other hand, Governor Huckabee is on record opposing the most important element of genuine school choice-voucher programs that allow poor students in failing public schools to attend private schools and inject much needed competition into a decrepit public education system-because of a concern about government control of parochial schools (Arkansas Times 09/22/05). He also called No Child Left Behind "the greatest education reform effort by the federal government in my lifetime," (Washington Times 03/01/05) a program that stripped schools of local control and increased federal spending on education by 48% over three years (Heritage.org 11/09/06). Huckabee's ad says he was "tough on crime" and "brought Arkansas' crime rates down." But that's not quite right. While the overall crime rate did decline by 3.9 percent, that was due entirely to a 5.0 percent reduction in property crimes, such as burglaries and auto theft. When it comes to violent crimes, a category that includes murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults, Huckabee's record is mixed: Murders and robberies declined, while rapes and aggravated assaults increased. Overall, the violent crime rate was actually 5.2 percent higher than in 1996, when he took office more than midway through the year on July 15. Key Consevative leaders do not support Huckabee. Betsy Hagan, Arkansas director of the conservative Eagle Forum and a key backer of his early runs for office, was once "his No. 1 fan." She was bitterly disappointed with his record. "He was pro-life and pro-gun, but otherwise a liberal," she says. "Just like Bill Clinton he will charm you, but don't be surprised if he takes a completely different turn in office." Phyllis Schlafly (my hero, my icon and my role model), president of the national Eagle Forum, is even more blunt. "He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas, and left the Republican Party a shambles," she says. "Yet some of the same evangelicals who sold us on George W. Bush as a 'compassionate conservative' are now trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee." I won’t repost Ann Coulter’s comments of Huck here, though there is no factual argument against them, and you would do well to go to her website www.anncoulter.com and look them up in the archives. Rush Limbaugh, the leading voice of American Conservatives, has been famously critical of Huckabee: “What we have going on here is identity politics, I think, in a large swath of support for Governor Huckabee. Identity politics is what the left does. Do you know what I mean when I say "identity politics,"?...Identity politics is: You vote for the Christian. You vote for the black. You vote for the woman. This is traditionally how the left looks at people. Of course, one of the things that makes me convinced I'm right about this is that Governor Huckabee is doing what he can to avoid discussing his record and his policy beliefs and is, in fact, relying on his identity to keep people on his side, in his camp, and perhaps even grow it. In one way, you'd have to say it's pretty smart because on the other side his opponents, you've got admitted conservative flaws -- admitted conservative flaws which do trouble the Christian right, which is a large part of the Republican base. Either support for abortion or gay marriage, things that would be disruptive to the culture, and many people are very, very concerned about the culture. So with Huckabee, the identity is, Christian. That means hundred percent thoroughbred on social issues, the cultural issues. Yet you dig deep, and you find the policy on immigration. If you look at Huckabee in an identity sense and yet at the same time you really think illegal immigration is destroying this country, then your identity association with Huckabee as a Christian likely will make you overlook the fact that he's opposite your belief on illegal immigration. Jimmy Carter was a Southern Baptist and he ran on that and he tried to capitalize on that. He ran on the religious identity, too.” This is a summary, yes, even a “drive-by” case summary of Mike Huckabee’s record. He says lots of great things. I saw his interview with Glenn Beck and was deeply moved. He almost made second place on my list. And then I started investigating. I don’t care if Mike Huckabee is a pastor, a Republican, a Christian. The fact of the matter is, he’s not honest, he’s not consistent, and he’s not a Conservative. This may sound abrasive, but I’m scared, guys. Remember, we are to be wise as serpents. We are not being wise. You know my position on Christian involvement in government. To say it is aggressive would be an understatement. However, voting for someone just because he says he is a Christian is not a good reason. Voting for someone just because he is a “nice guy” (and I think Huck is) is not a good reason. We need a powerhouse conservative leader on the Republican ticket, because it looks more and more like a Clinton-Obama opposition. (You just watch, after the primaries they will be best buddies with no memory of the last three months of “uncivil war” as calls it.) Oh, and you know what else Rush said? “I'm here to tell you, if either [McCain or Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party, it's going to change it forever, be the end of it….You watch.” http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/11/13/huckabee/; http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15853756/; http://www.clubforgrowth.org/2007/01/a_report_on_mike_huckabees_fis.php; http://www.motherjones.com/mojoblog/archives/2007/11/6266_examining_mike.html; http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/huckabee_cut_crime_and_taxes.html; http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_011508/content/01125107.guest.html; http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_122607/content/Rush_Responds_to_Gov__Huckabee.guest.html;

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