Health care has emerged as another hot-button issue in the heated U.S. Senate race.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and the Nevada Democratic Party have begun attacking his GOP opponent Sharron Angle on the issue, which has sharply divided voters here and nationwide.
Like many conservative Republicans, Angle is against the government requiring insurance companies to cover specific things, or mandated coverage.
In his latest campaign ad released last Friday, Reid slams Angle for her stance. The TV spot points to the former Reno assemblywoman's 2003 vote against a bill to mandate insurance coverage for colonoscopies, which can detect cancer. Angle and Sparks Assemblyman Don Gustavson, another fiscal conservative, both voted "no" on SB183, which passed 39-2.
"Sharron Angle's against making insurance companies cover colon cancer tests, mammograms or anything else," the ad narrator says. "That's not just extreme; it's dangerous."
The ad came during the same week the Nevada Democratic Party began distributing a video of Angle saying insurance companies shouldn't be forced to cover autism, either.
"Take off the mandates for coverage in the state of Nevada and all over the United States," Angle says in the video from a speech she gave in 2009 at a Tea Party rally in Winnemucca. "You know what I'm talking about. You're paying for things that you don't even need."
"They just passed the latest one," Angle continues, then makes a reference to autism, using her fingers to make quotes around the term that describes a range of developmental disorders. "Everything they want to throw at us is covered under 'autism,' so that's a mandate that you have to pay for. How about maternity leave? I'm not going to have any more babies, but I sure get to pay for it on my insurance. Those are the kinds of things we want to get rid of."
On autism, Angle apparently was referring to a new 2009 law requiring insurance companies to cover it in Nevada, one of about two dozen states that mandate such coverage.
The Reid campaign and the Democratic Party have portrayed Angle's comments as callous and have sent out press releases from autism groups denouncing Angle.
The Angle campaign dismissed the latest attacks, which come as Reid fights to retain his seat and polls show the race a dead heat.
"Sharron believes that Americans deserve the best medical coverage and treatment," Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy said. "The real issue continues to be about costly unfunded government mandates that drive up the cost of health insurance and reduce the level of care, policies that are forced upon citizens by career politicians like Harry Reid through unwanted legislation like ObamaCare."
At a Senate candidate forum Thursday night in Las Vegas, Angle promised to try to repeal President Barack Obama's new heath care law, which includes a bevy of mandates.
"There are solutions to insurance costs and they don't reside in government," Angle said. "They reside in the free market."
Angle, like other Republicans, proposes doing away with mandated coverage and spurring price competition by allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and by creating insurance pools so businesses, school districts and other entities can share risks. She also calls for tort reform, or law changes that could reduce high insurance costs.
Health care is a difficult issue for Reid in Nevada, where more than half of voters oppose the new health care law, according to several polls.
Reid pushed the law through Congress over objections from Republicans and despite concerns from the public about the effect the new law will have. Some states have sued the federal government to stop the law, which critics say is unconstitutional because it will require people to buy insurance.
-- Laura Myers
milking an issue
The politics of milk is persisting in the U.S. Senate campaign in Nevada.
In a bid to draw attention to an election year beef against dairy bills that Sen. Harry Reid promoted in Congress, Republican milk farmer Ed Goedhart produced a video last week challenging the legislation.
Goedhart said he spent $2,000 from Ponderosa Dairy, where he is manager, for the spot in which he voices his complaint over scenes depicting workers at the Amargosa Valley farm.
The video was posted on YouTube.com as a rebuttal to a Reid campaign commercial in which the senator is credited with saving jobs at Anderson Dairy in Las Vegas.
In the Reid commercial, Anderson chief David Coon says federal rules were choking the business and that Reid got the federal dairy law changed in 2006 "so that Anderson could compete." The dairy employed 130 people.
"Because of Senator Reid, we continue to stay in business," Coon said in the ad.
The change in the law exempted Nevada dairy processors from federal raw milk pricing rules, in the process making permanent an exemption Reid had obtained in 1999 for Las Vegas, where Anderson Dairy was the only producer.
But Goedhart, a Republican assemblyman, said the commercial tells only part of the story. The exemption was beneficial to Anderson Dairy, but less so for other Nevada dairy operators, he said.
To get the best price, Goedhart said Ponderosa has to ship raw milk to California, generating "millions of dollars a year in higher trucking costs."
When Goedhart issued an initial statement on the matter two weeks ago, Reid campaign spokesman Jon Summers noted that Goedhart is only now complaining about legislation that dates to 1999. That raises suspicion that Goedhart is more interested in landing a political hit, he said.
Also, the milk bill that has drawn Goedhart's ire was passed in 2006, with Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican, as a main supporter, Reid's campaign has said.
"Anyone can see through this," Summers said, adding that the pricing exemption allowed a second producer, Meadow Gold Dairy, to enter the Las Vegas market.
Goedhart maintained no bill could have passed without Reid's say-so. He insisted he was acting on his own, not in league with Angle.
"I did not bring this up until I saw the TV ad on Anderson Dairy," Goedhart said. "That sparked something in me that said I am not going to swallow this anymore."
Goedhart also said Hein Hettinga, a maverick Arizona dairyman whose business was hurt by the 2006 milk legislation, "is going to be coming out with a video as well."
Several messages have been left for David Coon at Anderson Dairy seeking comment.
Also last week a message was left for Christopher Cook, the chairman of the Nevada State Dairy Commission. The panel's executive assistant said Cook and the other two commissioners had no comment.
Ponderosa milks more than 9,000 cows, making it the largest dairy in Nevada. Goedhart said the dairy, which employs 145 people, set aside any thought to expand in Nevada and instead has invested more than $100 million in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas dairies over the past eight years.
"If you are going to pat yourself on the back for jobs created, you should take responsibility for jobs you lost," Goedhart said.
-- Steve Tetreault
With Nevada and the nation facing the toughest times since the Great Depression, the weeks before a big election seem like a good opportunity to engage voters in some meaty public policy discussions.
But so far some of the state's major campaigns are more interested in serving heaping helpings of phony baloney.
Ads in the race for governor and Congressional District 3 have been flamed repeatedly for containing more campaign fat and gristle than Grade A Prime facts.
Spots supporting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., have been identified among the rankest cuts, but Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval has also tossed the voters some low-quality rhetorical scraps.
The spot getting the most attention lately is Reid's attack on Sandoval for being too cozy with bank lobbyists. It starts with an inaccurate implication Sandoval was recruited to run by banking lobbyists. More accurately, one Sandoval adviser counts one bank among his clients.
It continues by blaming Sandoval for the alleged devastating fallout of a 1997 banking bill that passed the Nevada Legislature unanimously.
In fact, the bill had little, if anything, to do with causing today's economic crash, and a lobbyist from Reid's current law firm led the charge on the bill.
To top it off, the ad makers sliced and spliced video from a Sandoval television interview to make it appear the Republican said something he didn't.
The net effect? Reid appears to be gaining ground in the race and voters are talking about Sandoval's purported propensity to do the bidding of banking buddies.
It is a strategy that works, said Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at the University of Michigan who studies such things.
Inaccurate ads are often more effective than true ones, particularly if media organizations subject them to journalistic scrutiny, Nyhan said.
He calls it the "free media twist."
"Take the charge, add a little layer of nonsense on top, and then you get more free press out of the ad," Nyhan said.
That could explain why Sandoval seems to downplay the subject by declining calls to respond and saying as little as possible about the subject.
"I was the sponsor of the bill," Sandoval said Wednesday on his way into a private event in Las Vegas. "It was a banking bill that simplified the banking law."
Instead, Team Sandoval is fighting back with ads of its own that, ironically, include unsubstantiated implications.
The Sandoval ads accuse Reid of running a "campaign of lies," citing as proof a news article that lists just one instance where Team Reid is straining credulity by saying Sandoval wants to lay off 5,000 teachers. The article alone doesn't substantiate the "campaign of lies" charge.
Sandoval also accuses Reid of poor leadership as chairman of the Clark County Commission, citing a newspaper editorial about burgeoning county personnel costs.
The editorial mentions Reid by name, but offers thin support for the broad Sandoval charge of "poor leadership" by the Democrat.
In the Congressional District 3 race, ads supporting Titus also have been criticized for repeating false claims that Republican Joe Heck signed a pledge to send American jobs overseas, and that when he was in the Legislature he voted against a vaccine for cervical cancer, the latter of which came with the claim Heck, a physician, is "dangerous to women."
Titus has been hit back by ads calling out the misrepresentation.
Nyhan says there isn't much disincentive for campaigns to stretch the truth to the breaking point, and beyond. In fact, the target of a false attack can make matters worse by trying to explain the truth.
"Saying it is not true or it is more complicated is not typically an effective message," Nyhan said. He added: "When you are denying the charge you are talking about something you don't want to be talking about and some portion of your audience is going to be predisposed to not believe you."
-- Benjamin Spillman
Contact Laura Myers at lmyers @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault @stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Contact Benjamin Spillman at bspillman @reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.