The super PAC operated by Republican leaders of the U.S. House on Wednesday released a commercial critical of Democratic congressional candidate Paul Davis’ legislative voting record on state tax issues and opinions on federal tax reform.
Kansas Fact Meter finds the ad misleading because it ignored dozens of Kansas House votes by Davis to decrease state taxes and offered an incomplete view of his views on how Congress ought to address taxation of the middle class.
Davis, a Lawrence attorney, is competing in the 2nd District campaign against GOP nominee Steve Watkins, of Topeka, and Libertarian Kelly Standley, of St. Paul. The winner will replace retiring U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Republican.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC angling to preserve a Republican majority in the U.S. House, said in the television spot that Davis “voted repeatedly for higher taxes” as a member of the Legislature.
In addition, the ad says, Davis objected to a middle-class tax cut that saved Kansas families $2,000 annually. It didn’t clearly say the tax bill in question was the 2017 federal law that reduced tax rates on business and individuals, raised the standard deduction and repealed the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.
Davis criticized the federal law advocated by President Donald Trump because it included a 2012 state tax exemption given to over 300,000 Kansas business owners by Gov. Sam Brownback, a move that contributed to years of revenue shortfalls for state government. The 2017 Legislature repealed that tax exemption.
Davis also said the federal legislation was deficient because it stripped health care from 30,000 Kansans in the 2nd District and incentivized corporations to ship jobs overseas.
“It explodes America’s $20 trillion national debt,” Davis said in an opinion column, “something Republicans and Democrats agree is the gravest long-term threat to our national security. In other words, this tax plan is a bad deal for Kansas.”
In the same column, Davis said Congress should concentrate on closing loopholes that allow politically connected people to game the tax system and focus on reducing the tax burden on middle- and low-income families.
Davis voted more than 150 times during his career as a state legislator to reduce taxes in Kansas, said Haley Pollack, spokeswoman for the campaign.
Michael Byerly, spokesman for the congressional super PAC, said Davis’ record showed he favored higher taxes on “parents, small businesses and even utilities.” Byerly offered as evidence a document that noted Davis voted against a bill lowering state income tax rates in 2012, for a 2010 sales tax increase and in favor of a 2004 bill to levy a higher franchise tax on some utilities.
Byerly also defended a portion of the political commercial that denounced Davis votes as a legislator in opposition to placement of work requirements on recipients of welfare benefits in Kansas. He said it was evidence that “Kansans cannot afford Paul Davis in Congress.”
His evidence was Davis’ opposition to placing employment or job-training mandates on adults receiving food stamps. While Davis served as House minority leader in 2013, the Brownback administration moved to limit government food assistance to people working at least 20 hours per week or enrolled in an approved job training.
Davis’ campaign recently sent out an email blast to supporters complaining the House GOP leadership PAC had dumped $1.2 million into the 2nd District race to assist Watkins. Watkins’ father contributed $600,000 to a super PAC to help his son win the GOP primary in August.
“Steve Watkins’ out-of-state special interest money is flowing into our race and we have to fight back,” Davis’ campaign said. “Paul has a long record of putting Kansas families first, but DC special interests are desperate to mislead Kansans and discredit Paul’s record.”
At the same time, Watkins has registered discontent with the $1 million investment in Davis by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Watkins urged Davis to demand the DCCC end its spending in the 2nd District.