McCain camp releases disingenuous ad on taxes

John McCain's latest spot repeats a previously debunked claim that Barack Obama "voted 94 times for higher taxes."

By Alex Koppelman
Published October 3, 2008 6:31PM (EDT)

The McCain campaign's latest television ad repeats, yet again, a claim that was debunked months ago.

The spot, dubbed "Tax Cutter," quotes Barack Obama saying, "I'm a tax cutter." The narrator then asks, "Really?" and goes on to say, "Senator Obama voted 94 times for higher taxes. Ninety-four times. He's not truthful on taxes. At least congressional liberals admit they want to raise your taxes. Add billions in new spending. And oppose offshore drilling. Congressional liberals. The truth hurts you."

But on July 3, the nonpartisan Web site examined the claim that Obama voted 94 times for higher taxes and called the number "padded." From the site's analysis:

After looking at every one of the 94 votes that the RNC includes in its tally, we find:
  • Twenty-three were for measures that would have produced no tax increase at all; they were against proposed tax cuts.
  • Seven of the votes were in favor of measures that would have lowered taxes for many, while raising them on a relative few, either corporations or affluent individuals.
  • Eleven votes the GOP is counting would have increased taxes on those making more than $1 million a year -- in order to fund programs such as Head Start and school nutrition programs, or veterans’ health care.
  • The GOP sometimes counted two, three and even four votes on the same measure. We found their tally included a total of 17 votes on seven measures, effectively padding their total by 10.
  • The majority of the 94 votes -- 53 of them, including some mentioned above -- were on budget measures, not tax bills, and would not have resulted in any tax change. Four other votes were non-binding motions related to conference report negotiations.

It's true that most of the votes the GOP counts would have either increased taxes for some or set budget targets calling for such increases. But by repeating their inflated 94-vote figure, the McCain campaign and the GOP falsely imply that Obama has pushed indiscriminately to raise taxes for nearly everybody. A closer look reveals that he's voted consistently to restore higher tax rates on upper-income taxpayers but not on middle- or low-income workers. That's consistent with what he has said he'd do as president, which is to raise taxes only on those making more than $250,000 a year.

The McCain camp says the ad, which you can watch below, is airing nationally. And, by the way, the reason it includes seemingly unrelated attacks on "congressional liberals" is that it was paid for jointly by the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama John Mccain R-ariz.