In the 15th, tying Dent to Wall Street is the strategy
CLARIFICATION APPENDED (See bottom)
Democrat John Callahan’s campaign is mounting an aggressive effort to portray Congressman Charlie Dent (R-15) as a patron of Wall Street interests, doggedly criticizing the incumbent for the campaign cash he gets from the financial sector and for his opposition to regulatory reforms. The strategy was well under way even before last week’s primary yielded the expected general election matchup between Dent and Callahan, the Bethlehem mayor and White House recruit. It will only pick up steam in the coming months, underscoring Democratic beliefs that Republicans across the state and country are vulnerable on the issue.
Throughout the last several months, Callahan’s campaign has compiled and analyzed data on Dent’s fundraising, made a Web video calling him a flip-flop on the 2008 financial bailouts and seized on every opportunity to make its argument in public.
“It’s time for Congressman Dent to stop protecting CEOs on Wall Street,” Callahan campaign manager Justin Schall Tuesday in the latest of many such statements. Dent has been the beneficiary of more than $300,000 in campaign cash from financial sectors over the course of his five-year stint in Congress, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Callahan’s strategy comes as Democrats are more eager to focus House races on local issues, while Republicans are looking to nationalize elections at every turn. But with financial reform legislation moving through Congress, Democrats think they’ve found a national issue to play up, and challengers are pushing incumbent Republicans to take a stance on the reform measures. After passing both the House and the Senate, the current legislation is heading to conference committee before final votes. Dent voted against the bill the first time around, and his campaign would not say how he’ll vote when it comes back to the floor.
“The Congressman will review the legislation and understand how it will affect the people of his district, in particular how best to protect taxpayers, ensure that small businesses have access to credit and revive the economy,” Dent spokesman Greg Bortz told pa2010.com. He declined to specify what changes Dent would need to see to support the bill.
The 2008 bailout, in particular, has become political catnip for candidates in both parties, as incumbents are assailed for supporting legislation that was backed by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Callahan’s campaign acknowledged that he would have voted for the unpopular bailout in its first form, but said he would not have backed the second version of the bill without additional safeguards to prevent future bailouts. His campaign has taken particular issue with Dent for voting against before supporting it. In the recent Web video, Callahan’s campaign said Dent’s vote was only secured after the bill was “loaded with $150 billion in pork projects.”
Bortz defended the congressman’s initial opposition to the bailout, saying the legislation “had no Main Street, FDIC protections for everyday depositors.”
Callahan’s campaign offers a laundry list of other objectionable votes, including Dent’s opposition to a 2009 measure to increase transparency of the so-called TARP bailouts.
Both candidates are trying to position themselves as hard-liners in their approach to Wall Street.
“Congressman Dent introduced legislation to end the TARP program at its originally scheduled closure date [Dec. 31, 2009] and assure that money repaid from TARP goes back to the Treasury for deficit reduction,” Bortz said. “He had also voted last January to block the release of the final $350 billion pending further Congressional review of how the money was being used, and that effort actually passed the House, but the Senate failed to act.”
Chris Borick, a pollster and political analyst at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said Wall Street reform could prove to be a tricky political arena for Dent, who is being heavily targeted by Democrats this cycle. Borick pointed to a fundraiser Dent had this week in Washington with House Minority Leader John Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor.
“[Dent] has a strong back background in the area… but he risks being portrayed as a Washington insider, with the K Street fundraisers,” Borick said.
Clarification: Because of an editing error, this article originally gave an incomplete description of Callahan’s stance on the 2008 financial bailouts. Callahan’s campaign says he would have voted for the first version of the bill because of the economic crisis, but would not have backed the second and final version without additional protections to guard against future bailouts. “Callahan believes that Congress needed to take action to stop the financial crisis but he would not have voted for the $850 billion dollar bailout because it had insufficient safe guards to prevent a future bailout and there was nothing in the bill to ensure tax payers would get paid back,” campaign manager Justin Schall said. “If Callahan had been in Congress he would have fought for more safeguards and would have voted no unless he was successful at getting them added.”
May 27, 2010 at 11:30 am