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July 29, 2014

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Line of Attack: Does John Oceguera waste taxpayer dollars?

Line of Attack is a weekly feature in which we parse a political attack, looking at the strategy behind it, how the campaign is delivering it and what facts support or refute it. We’ll assign it a rating on the fairness meter: Legit, Eye Roll, Guffaw, Laughable or Outrageous.

Attack: John Oceguera wastes taxpayer money, first with a gym he had installed at the Legislature and then when he retired as an assistant fire chief with North Las Vegas, and got $452,516 last year in compensation. At the same time, he pushed for a $1.2 billion tax hike.

Method of delivery: This ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee takes on Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, who is running against U.S. Rep. Joe Heck. It starts with the image of a heavily breathing man on a treadmill — the gym! — and ends with the tagline: “John Oceguera is a workout for our wallets.”

Strategy: This is an obvious line of attack against Oceguera, who has long weathered criticism for his seemingly generous compensation as a 20-plus year firefighter and his role as a “public employee” lawmaker.

Fairness meter: Oceguera did indeed order a room at the Legislature in Carson City to be outfitted with workout equipment before the 2011 session. The equipment — two elliptical trainers, two treadmills and two recumbent bikes — cost $31,444, according to Oceguera’s campaign. Another $3,000 was spent on wiring to ensure secure access.

By Oceguera’s reasoning, legislative staff work long hours during the session, which is true, and this would improve the health of those workers.

Explanations aside, this attack is legit.

The second part of the ad says that Oceguera “gamed the system, taking $450,000 in compensation while working just five months full time.”

It’s true Oceguera worked just five months last year, retiring before the end of the year and rearranging his shifts with the fire department around his time at the Legislature.

And, it’s true, according to TransparentNevada.com, that Oceguera took home $452,516 in pay and benefits. However, the bulk of that — $295,573 — came from cashing in unused sick and vacation time when he retired on Sept. 23, 2011.

By law, Oceguera was entitled to the sick and vacation time payout. So, to say he “gamed the system” earns an eye roll.

Finally, the ad charges that Oceguera “pushed a billion dollars in new and higher taxes.” Oceguera and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford pushed the Democrats’ tax plan in 2011, which would have raised $1.2 billion, but failed. This attack is legit.

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