, Salem, MA

October 27, 2010

Campaign ads fact check: Tierney opponent called 'kook' who'll kill mortgage tax credit

By Matthew K. Roy
Staff writer

Republican Bill Hudak is going to court over a campaign ad.

He has asked a Superior Court judge to order Congressman John Tierney to stop using a television spot that suggests Hudak wants to "shift the tax burden from the wealthiest to the middle class" and "eliminate the home mortgage deduction."

A hearing on Hudak's lawsuit is scheduled for today. Before a judge decides, The Salem News scrutinized Tierney's entire ad to test the accuracy of what the Salem Democrat claims about his opponent.

Claim: "Newspapers call Bill Hudak 'toxic' and a 'poisonous kook.'" "Toxic" is attributed to an Aug. 20 column by Salem News Editorial Page Editor Nelson Benton. "Poisonous kook" is attributed to an Aug. 13 column by Scot Lehigh in The Boston Globe.

Fact: Benton began a column that dealt primarily with gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker's apparent struggle to decide how far he should go in appealing to his party's right wing this way: "Boxford's Bill Hudak appears to be the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination for the 6th District seat in Congress. But some early missteps — a lawn sign comparing President Obama to Osama bin Laden and comments suggesting the president might not have been born in the U.S. — have turned him toxic in the view of some."

In the third paragraph of a column critical of Hudak, Lehigh wrote, "But there are pretty clear signs that Hudak has wandered well north of the border that separates a hyperbolic political hopeful from a poisonous, insidious kook."

Claim: "Hudak's yard signs liken the president to a mass-murdering terrorist."

Fact: Hudak has admitted that he put out a sign prior to the 2008 election that showed then-candidate Barack Obama made to look like terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. "So America, you want change?" the sign said. "Just wait."

Hudak has called it a "satire" and said it was meant to implore people to "think hard and long before we make a mistake that we're going to regret."

Claim: "Hudak wants to eliminate the Department of Education."

Fact: The source attached to the claim is the Greater Boston Tea Party Voter Guide. In the guide, candidates are asked if they support "the dismantling of the Department of Education, thereby returning the management of public education to state and local governments." The guide indicates that Hudak supports this position.

Claim: "Hudak would shift the tax burden from the wealthiest to the middle class and eliminate the home mortgage deduction."

Fact: Hudak does not say he wants to shift the tax burden or eliminate the home mortgage deduction in either of the sources Tierney cites for these claims.

In a WRKO radio interview on Aug. 24, Hudak suggests he is open to a "flat" or "fair tax."

"I believe the federal government is overblowing and taking too much of a bite from everyone," Hudak said. "There are some very good proposals out there to have either a flat or a fair tax that would work in our country to fund everything we truly need to do at the federal level."

The second source Tierney uses, a Bruce Bartlett column that appeared in Forbes on Feb. 26, is not about Hudak and makes no mention of him. Bartlett contemplates the impact of a flat tax rate.

"... Benefits to individual taxpayers from a flattening of tax rates would be relatively small," he writes. "Because we have progressive rates, the wealthy would benefit disproportionately while many of the poor would be devastated. ... Many in the middle class would benefit only modestly or would even pay more under a flat tax."

Calling it a "utopian plan," Bartlett indicates that, if "implemented in totality," a flat tax would "tear the existing tax system out by its roots" and replace it with something that would eliminate the mortgage interest deduction.