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October 21, 2014

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Truth Squad:

Anti-Titus ads: Several sponsors, one basic message

This week brought a barrage of negative ads in the 3rd Congressional District race. Rep. Jon Porter and Republican groups are mostly one-note in their attacks: Democratic challenger Dina Titus has voted in the state Senate to raise taxes. Besides one ad about solar energy that aired briefly in the beginning of the campaign, Porter’s ads have stuck to repeatedly saying Titus double-dipped with state salaries and voted to quadruple her pension.

Titus hit back this week with a new ad citing Truth Squad analyses of Porter’s ads that found them to be mostly unfair and misleading.

A new TV commercial from the National Republican Congressional Committee repeats the same taxes refrain. The only new material is a claim that Titus was “voted worst senator,” which refers to a June 2007 Review-Journal survey of 40 reporters, legislators and full-time lobbyists, and that she was late to pay property taxes on her home five times. Titus has been in her home for 25 years, and with property taxes paid quarterly, that means 95 out of a hundred payments were made on time.

Among the new TV spots on behalf of Porter is this one from Freedom’s Watch, a conservative lobbying group largely funded by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. It incorporates the boilerplate attack about Titus’ tax record.

The Script: A spoof of doctors and nurses in an operating room talking to one another: “Oh wow.” “Colitis? Hepatitis? Diverticulitis?” “I’m afraid it’s Dina Titus.” “Dina Titus?” “Taxes up the yin-yang. Her tax policy is killing us.” Then an announcer: “Dina Titus voted for the biggest tax increase in Nevada’s history. Dina Titus voted to raise taxes on small businesses, and Dina Titus even voted to tax us when we buy or sell a house.” Back to the operating room: “Taxes up the yin-yang?” And the announcer: “Tell Dina Titus no new taxes.”

The Video: Opens with a scene of an operating room with people playing nurses and doctors. They look at X-rays and hover over a patient. Then the video shows a photo of Titus from her own ad with the text “Dina Titus voted for biggest tax increase in Nevada’s history.” Next is another photo of Titus, a video of a woman handing someone a bag of groceries and the text: “Dina Titus voted to raise taxes on small business.” Next is a video of Titus, a home for-sale sign, and the text: “Dina Titus voted to tax us when we buy or sell a house.” It quickly goes back to the operating room scene, then ends with a photo of Titus and the text: “Tell Dina Titus: Vote against new Nevada taxes.”

The Reality: The ad unfairly makes it appear as if Titus voted for three separate bills. It was one. In 2003, at the behest of the Republican governor, the vast majority of Republican and Democrat legislators approved a major tax package to prevent fiscal collapse. The bill did raise taxes on businesses, adding a 0.7 percent excise tax on wages (2.2 percent for businesses classified as financial institutions) and a real estate tax of $1.30 on each $500 of value transferred. But to suggest Titus’ “tax policy is killing us” is unfair, given the bipartisan support for a bill that was passed to fill a large budget gap.

(The Republican committee ad refers to the same vote and makes it seem as if there were multiple bills.)

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