Simpson begins branding challenger Smith: ‘dishonest attacker, personal-injury lawyer’

Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson is airing his first ad of the 2014 primary campaign against Idaho Falls lawyer Bryan Smith, a 60-second radio spot that three times calls Smith a “personal-injury lawyer” and four times accuses him of “dishonest attacks.”

The ad also four times characterizes Simpson as a “conservative Republican” and notes his top ratings from the NRA and National Right to Life.

Simpson’s ad is in response to Smith’s 60-second radio spot last week, which called Simpson a “liberal career politician” and said he won’t oppose “any government spending bill that funds Obamacare.” The Smith ad characterizes Smith as a “courageous conservative.”

The text of the Simpson ad:

Announcer No. 1 (with background sound of an auto crash): Fed up with politicians who’ll say anything? Tired of their dishonest attacks? Then call the offices of personal-injury lawyer Bryan Smith at 538-9683, that’s 538-9683!”

Announcer No. 2 (with background sound of upbeat music): Because personal-injury lawyer Bryan Smith is calling our conservative Republican Congressman Mike Simpson a liberal and is making dishonest attacks about Mike Simpson’s fight against Obamacare. Everyone knows Mike Simpson’s a proven, conservative Republican who’s earned an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life.

Conservative Republican Mike Simpson voted for a Balanced Budget Amendment. And conservative Republican Mike Simpson strongly opposes Obamacare, voting 39 times to repeal or defund Obamacare.

Tired of dishonest attacks? Call Bryan Smith. Tell Brian he may claim to be courageous, but his dishonest attacks prove that personal-injury lawyer Bryan Smith is willing to say anything to win.

Simpson: I’m Mike Simpson and I approved this message to set the record straight. Paid for by Simpson for Congress.

I asked Simpson’s campaign manager, Brody Aston, for the dollar amount allocated to the ads. His reply was general: “It is a significant district-wide buy.”

Smith’s campaign manager, Carrie Brown, said her boss is a “business litigator” and called the Simpson ad “grossly misleading.”

“Out of the thousands of cases Bryan has litigated over his career, less than 1% of them have been personal injury cases. No one in the business would call him a personal injury lawyer, they would call him a business litigator,” Brown said Tuesday afternoon in an email. “His peers including judges have given him the highest ethical rating among Idaho attorneys.”

On Smith’s business website he lists ‘personal injury’ third on a list of five practice areas: “Litigation; Commercial Law; Personal Injury; Insurance; Construction Litigation.” Of the four lawyers at Smith, Driscoll & Associates in Idaho Falls, Smith is the only one listed as practicing personal-injury law. Personal injury is listed among the firm’s practice areas.

Brown provided a link to the entry on Smith on the Martindale Hubbell Peer Review Rating, which gives Smith the highest mark, five out of five, or “preeminent.” Martindale Hubbell also lists personal injury among the same five practice areas on Smith’s own website.

Brown also had this to say:

“Mike Simpson is so desperate to hold onto to his political career, he is now pretending to be a conservative. The truth is, Mike Simpson has an across the board liberal record that includes voting for the Wall Street bank bailouts (RC #681, Oct. 3, 2008) Obama’s infamous Cash for Clunkers program (RC #682, July 31, 2009) and was one of only three Republicans in the House to vote to continue to fund ACORN (RC #397, June 2, 2011). And now, he is even refusing to stand with the rest of the Idaho congressional delegation in defunding Obamacare. Idaho Republicans will not be fooled by Mike Simpson’s desperate radio ads.”

Brown continued:

Background on Simpson being on the record saying he will not vote to defund Obamacare

Mike Simpson is the only member of the Idaho congressional delegation who will not be supporting the upcoming Defund Obamacare Act (H.R. 2682, S.1292) sponsored by Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-14) in the House and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the Senate. (Idaho Statesman, 8/21/13)

Bryan Smith has repeatedly called on Mike Simpson to vote for the Defund Obamacare Act.  (Idaho Falls Post Register, 8/15/13; see also Bryan Smith for Congress Press Release, 8/21/13)

Mike Simpson on the record saying he will not vote to defund Obamacare. (Nate Shelman Show – KBOI, (26:20)8/27/13)

The text of the Smith ad:

Announcer: After 16 long years in Washington, liberal Congressman Mike Simpson has forgotten our conservative Idaho values. He even opposes efforts to defund Obamacare. That’s right. He won’t join conservatives like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and our own Raul Labrador, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo in opposing any government spending bill that funds Obamacare.

After 16 years of Mike Simpson, Idaho Republicans have a choice. Courageous conservative Bryan Smith. He will fight to defund Obamacare now.

Smith: I’m Bryan Smith and I approve this message. Unlike Mike Simpson, I will vote to defund Obamacare immediately. Its time for a real conservative to represent us.

Announcer: While liberal career politician Mike Simpson stands with the Washington insiders who won’t fight Obamacare, courageous conservative Bryan Smith will stand up for us. Find out more and get involved today at BryanSmithforCongess.com. Paid for by Bryan Smith for Congress, Inc.

A news release from the Simpson campaign cites newspaper stories from the Idaho Falls Post Register, Idaho Statesman and Idaho Press-Tribune. The release follows, in full:

News Coverage on Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District Race:

Simpson Sets the Record Straight

Releases ad highlighting his conservative record

Boise, Idaho – Setting the record straight and highlighting his proven conservative record, Congressman Mike Simpson today released his first radio ad.

Last week, Simpson’s opponent released a negative attack ad distorting his record.

“Idahoans know Republican Mike Simpson is a proven conservative who strongly opposes Obamacare and voted 39 times to repeal it,” said Simpson campaign manager Brody Aston. “Personal injury lawyer Bryan Smith’s dishonest attacks prove that he’s willing to say anything to win.”

The district-wide radio ad highlights conservative Republican Mike Simpson’s record including, fighting against Obamacare, voting for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution and earning an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association and a 100% lifetime score from National Right to Life.

 

The Idaho Falls Post Register
     JEERS to the Club for Growth. The ultraconservative special interest group is backing Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith in his effort to unseat incumbent Congressman Mike Simpson. That’s fine. If Smith wants to hang with the group that gave Idaho Congressman Bill Sali, that’s his business.
The problem is the Club for Growth news release, which featured the usual name-calling (RINO, “Crazy Liberals”), dubious claims and half-truths. That release said Simpson “was one of just three Republicans who voted against cutting funding for the radical left-wing group ACORN.” Here’s what the record shows:
Since 2009, Simpson has voted 28 times to defund ACORN and its subordinates. He wrote the language in the 2012 Interior Bill that cost ACORN its federal funding.
The vote referenced by Club for Growth was an amendment that would have killed hundreds of nonprofits, some with questionable ties to ACORN. The amendment’s sponsor, Iowa Republican Peter King, knew nothing about many of the groups he was attacking. One House member compared his actions to those of Sen. Joe McCarthy. If Idahoans are going to have an honest debate, Smith will need to keep his attack dogs on a shorter leash.

Idaho Statesman Dan Popkey: Smith all-in with challenge to Idaho Rep. Simpson:
    The newcomer has taken a sabbatical to concentrate on his campaign.
When Bryan Smith primed the pump with $50,000 for his nascent campaign to unseat popular eight-term Congressman Mike Simpson, he didn’t want anyone misunderstanding his commitment.
Smith said he was advised to make a loan to the campaign. That way, if he won, he’d get his dough back.
Smith says he wasn’t interested in payback.
“If I have people contribute to my campaign and I win, do they get their money back? No,” Smith told the Elmore County GOP Central Committee on Thursday. “One of my first good-faith gestures before I’m even elected is I want people to know I want to be treated just like the constituents.”
On July 15, Smith took a break from his Idaho Falls law firm he says will last until the May 20, 2014, Republican primary. “When you do what I’m doing, you have to be devoted full time.”
State Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, has been hoping to oust Simpson for four years. Nielsen twice backed Chick Heileson, who got 24 percent of the vote in 2010 and 30 percent in 2012.
“This is not a feeble attempt,” Neilsen said. “He’s in it up to here. And he knows some things and places that Chick didn’t.”
Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, was also on hand to see Smith in Elmore County. A longtime Simpson supporter, Brackett has a special interest in the contest: His son-in-law, John Revier, is Simpson’s deputy chief of staff.
Brackett’s take on Smith: “He’s well-spoken, he’s a credible opponent.”
But Brackett and former Elmore County Commissioner Arlie Shaw exposed what could prove a significant hurdle for Smith. Mainstream Republicans put considerable trust in Simpson, who served 14 years in the Idaho House, including six as speaker, before his election to Congress in 1998. He’s never been seriously challenged.
Shaw asked Smith about Simpson’s support of federal payments that provide half the county budget, for rural schools and payments in lieu of taxes on federal land.
“If we lose that we’re in deep trouble,” Shaw said. “There’s only one place to get that and that’s property tax, or cutting the budget to nothing.”
Smith’s answer is a revived dream of Sagebrush Rebels who hold that the feds should “give back” to Idaho land that the United States has retained since the Enabling Act.
“I do not see begging for the crumbs from the federal government for land that they already agreed to dispose of and give to the states as a long-term solution,” Smith said. “A long-term solution would be for the states to get their lands back.”
Smith had the same answer when Brackett asked about Simpson’s bill to establish wilderness in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains — a decadelong process reached with local consensus — rather than risk President Barack Obama declaring the area a national monument.
“I believe the Enabling Act still requires the federal government to return the land to the states,” Smith said.
Brackett, a wry old cowboy, suggested Smith “check with our friends in Utah on how that worked out,” referring to President Bill Clinton’s creation of the 1.7 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Smith replied, “I’m not familiar with that,” and ended the question period to head to another meeting.
Despite that blip, Smith’s performance was solid. His words are those of a 2010 tea party insurgent, but he’s soft-spoken and polite, even bland.
Three times in his 30 minutes in Mountain Home, he said, “I am not a politician.” Other boilerplate: “Washington doesn’t have a tax problem, Washington has a spending problem”; and when you find yourself in a hole, “The first thing you have to do is stop digging.”
Smith knows beating Simpson will require the spade work he’s commenced. I suspect he’ll get more comfortable, polished and original as he gains experience.
But there are early signals of a rhetorical sloppiness that could fatally undermine his credibility.
In a news release last week, Smith mischaracterized Simpson as having sided with “liberal Democrats” in opposing an amendment to kill the National Security Agency’s collection of phone records in the U.S. In fact, Republicans voted to spare the program, 134-94. Democrats voted to end it, 111-83.
In Mountain Home, his first critique of Simpson’s record was for his being “one of only three Republicans who voted in favor of funding ACORN with your tax dollars.”
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, you’ll recall, became a sensation after a 2009 YouTube video showed employees advising clients how to hide prostitution and not pay taxes. As a result, the group went out of business, in 2010.
In September 2009, Simpson was an original co-sponsor of a bill to permanently defund ACORN and later authored his own ban in his appropriations subcommittee. In all, Simpson has voted 28 times against funding the group.
Smith, however, has cherry-picked a symbolic House vote on a June 2011 amendment brought by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to bar spending on more than 100 groups. King said during floor debate he could not provide information on why some groups were on his list, prompting Simpson to join 165 Democrats in voting no. Simpson’s aim was not to fund the already-defunct ACORN, but to protest King’s lack of preparation. An hour later, Simpson voted for the Homeland Security spending bill on final passage, including the successful amendment.
I’ve been trying to speak with Smith since Thursday, but he’s been unavailable. On Monday, I provided Smith with Simpson’s record on ACORN votes and asked if he still argued Simpson had “voted in favor of funding ACORN.”
Again, Smith was out of pocket. His campaign manager, Carrie Brown, offered this reply: “No amount of spinning by Congressman Simpson or his allies in the liberal press can change that Simpson was one of only three Republicans to oppose defunding ACORN and similar groups.”
Idahoans know Mike Simpson too well to buy such distortion. For Smith to give Simpson a real fight, he may wish to take more time vetting his talking points before most primary voters start paying close attention.

Idaho Statesman, Dan Popkey, Smith twists politics of Idaho Rep. Simpson’s vote to fund NSA surveillance
    Challenger Bryan Smith wrongly says Idaho 2nd District GOP Congressman Mike Simpson “yet again…voted with liberal Democrats” to reject an amendment to strip funding for the National Security Agency’s controversial program that collects phone records of U.S. citizens and residents.
In a news release, Smith correctly noted that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., favored supporting the NSA. But Pelosi abandoned her liberal base to back the program, which the government says is vital to detecting terrorist plans.
The coalition to end funding was dominated by liberal Democrats, joined by a smaller number of tea party and libertarian Republicans, including Idaho’s 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador.
The vote was on an amendment to a defense spending bill co-authored by tea party Republican Justin Amash and liberal lion John Conyers, both of Michigan.
The Amash Amendment failed on a 207-215 vote Wednesday. Backing continued funding of the NSA program were 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats, while 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats voted to kill the surveillance.
In short, Simpson voted with the majority of his Republican Party, while Labrador sided with liberal Democrats.
Details of the program were leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who remains stuck the Moscow airport seeking asylum. The Obama administration wants Snowden returned for prosecution.
Smith, an Idaho Falls lawyer, is running to unseat Simpson in the May 2014 Republican primary. Simpson is seeking a ninth two-year term; Smith is making his first run for public office.
Smith’s news release follows:
For Immediate Release – July 25, 2013
Contact: Carrie Brown
Simpson Votes to Continue Government Secret Surveillance Programs
Idaho Falls – Yesterday, Congressman Mike Simpson voted against an amendment introduced by Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, which would have ended the intrusive federal government secret surveillance programs of the National Security Agency (NSA).
The amendment would have canceled the statutory authority for the NSA program, ending the agency’s ability to collect phone records and metadata under the USA Patriot Act unless it identified an individual under investigation.
“Yet again, Congressman Mike Simpson voted with liberal Democrats including Nancy Pelosi, instead of protecting the rights of the citizens of Idaho’s second congressional district. Those security programs were established under fear and are nothing more than another way the federal government intrudes into the private lives of American citizens,” says Bryan Smith.

The Idaho Press Tribune, Not Again
    JEERS … to the Club for Growth. The last time this group came to Idaho, it spent $1.1 million electing Bill Sali to the 1st Congressional District in 2006. Sali was the last thing Idaho needed – a polarizing blowhard – but the Club for Growth didn’t care. Sali went on to fame for such things as proposing to repeal gravity. One thing he would not do, however, is vote against a farm bill. So in 2008, Club for Growth deserted Sali and Democrat Walt Minnick defeated him.
Two years later, Republican Raul Labrador beat Minnick. Now the Club for Growth is back with plans to elect Idaho Falls lawyer Bryan Smith to the 2nd Congressional District. That would mean ditching eight-term Republican Mike Simpson with someone tied to the GOP’s lunatic fringe.
Club for Growth President Chris Chocola labels Simpson a “crazy liberal” and a Republican in Name Only. Mike Simpson, who famously pulled strings to yank wolves off the endangered species list? Simpson, who never met an Environmental Protection Agency budget he liked? Simpson, who has a lifetime American Conservative Union ranking of 84.5 percent?
Simpson, who ranked just slightly behind Labrador on the National Journal’s recent exhaustive index of conservative voting? Simpson, who ties with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and comes out ahead of 88 other Republican House members on the Club for Growth’s own stilted Scorecard? That Mike Simpson?
What could explain Chocola’s animus for Simpson? Could it be Simpson’s willingness to put the country’s good ahead of a narrow political agenda? Simpson admits what everyone knows: If the country is going to regain fiscal sanity, it’s going to take both spending cuts and tax increases.
Simpson was a leader in the “Go Big Coalition” of about 100 lawmakers who advocated a compromise fiscal package. Could it be Simpson’s efforts to forge an Idaho consensus on the future of the Boulder-White Cloud range? If Simpson’s package of wilderness and economic development doesn’t pass, it’s likely President Barack Obama will swoop in and declare the place a national monument.
Or it could be that conservative renegades such as Chocola have it in for House Speaker John Boehner? To get to Boehner, they have to go through Simpson. For Idaho, Chocola’s agenda carries a huge price. Simpson is the state’s sole voice on the Appropriations Committee, a real asset when you consider how vital federal money is to keeping the state’s economy afloat. But Chocola doesn’t care about that. Odds are, he doesn’t give much of a hang about Idaho either.

Idaho Statesman: Simpson wisely skips a showdown
    Three-fourths of the Idaho congressional delegation now has signed on to a letter — or the idea — that the Affordable Care Act should not be funded by appropriation or when a new continuing resolution, or CR, begins to circulate through the House and Senate when Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day.
Sen. Mike Crapo has joined fellow Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch in signing a letter authored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that puts Sen. Harry Reid on notice that they want the ACA repealed, defunded or delayed. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, has said he won’t vote for any CR in the House that includes funding “Obamacare,” aka the ACA.
Without a new CR that would allow funding on Oct. — even temporarily — the federal government would technically run out of money. It could shut down. Crapo, Risch and Labrador do not believe that is going to happen, and, even if it did, it would not be their decision, they say, but the wish of President Barack Obama — who, in a certain unlikely scenario, would have to decide whether to agree to a CR that averted a shutdown but contained no funding for the ACA to move forward on Oct. 1.
Crapo and Risch readily agree that scenario will never happen. Even if the House passed a CR that excluded funding for Obamacare, such a measure would not pass their Democrat-controlled Senate. They say they and colleagues have drawn this line in the fiscal sand on the off-chance Obama will reconsider and put the brakes on the elaborate, expensive and expansive health care reforms — or at least delay the individual mandate for a year. Both Crapo and Risch say signing the letter has nothing to do with shutting down the government. Said Risch: “We’re here to govern.”
Now that we understand their posture better, we still don’t embrace the exercise, and we are glad to hear Rep. Mike Simpson isn’t adopting it. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Simpson doesn’t want to tempt fate or test Obama’s resolve, even though Simpson himself is dead-set against Obamacare.
“I don’t like it (the strategy),” he told the Statesman’s Editorial Board on Tuesday. “There is an old saying in politics that you never want to take a hostage that you can’t shoot. This is a hostage we should not shoot, and I won’t. Closing the government down has significant consequences. I realize that the people who have signed the letter and so on, that their intent is not to shut the government down.”
Outside of bringing the issue to the forefront again — and probably resulting in the same outcome of the-ACA-is-law-so-live-with-it — what if something unexpected happened that puts the country or citizens in jeopardy?
“Republicans are united that we want to repeal Obamacare, it’s just tactics that we’re talking about … but Republicans would get the blame no matter what.”
Simpson said there are real-world implications of shutting the government down.
“And what nobody has answered for me is, what do I tell the spouse who comes up to me with two children and says, ‘I’m trying to make the mortgage payment and put food on the table and my husband is fighting for you over in Afghanistan.’ … What do you tell that lady? What do you tell the forest firefighters or contract employees with the federal government that, come Oct. 1, that we’re just going to let it burn?”
Simpson said those who were around in 1995, when a similar fiscal standoff ensued and the government shut down for three weeks, are those most adamantly against using this tactic today.
So, we urge our delegation to think three and four steps beyond their votes. Make your point, but be ready to retreat before any hostages are harmed.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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