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Claims in flier debate fodder

Griffin, Elliott go toe-to-toe by Michael R. Wickline | September 18, 2010 at 4:56 a.m.

— Democratic congressional candidate Joyce Elliott’s new campaign flier refers to a Washington, D.C.-based group calling her Republican opponent, Tim Griffin, “one of the most crooked candidates for Congress” this year.

The flier also says Griffin “wants a new 23 [percent] sales tax on everything we buy, including groceries, gas and medicine” and “called for privatizing Social Security, gambling our seniors’ retirement in the stock market.”

Griffin disputed the charges during a more than hour-long question and answer candidates forum Friday at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock law school.

A group that calls itself Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington lists 14 congressional candidates on its website as “crooked.”

As its justification for characterizing Griffin as “crooked,” the group cites his work for the Republican National Committee in the 2004 presidential election, where he “may have” led “Republican efforts” in “a legally questionable direct mail campaign to disenfranchise poor, minority and military voters.”

Also, Griffin “was most prominently touched by scandal when he was picked to replace a U.S. attorney in Arkansas, who, despite being highly regarded, had been asked to resign,” the group said.

Griffin has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in either his gaining of the U.S. attorney job or any purported vote-suppression effort.

During Friday’s forum, Griffin referred to the flier, which was on tables at the law school.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Griffin said, thinks he is “a really bad guy.”

But, Griffin said, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Ross of Prescott “was attacked by the same group as committing bribery. I disagree with Congressman Mike Ross on a lot of things, but I don’t believe he is a bad guy, and I don’t believe he committed bribery. We disagree politically on things. But this type of nonsense by these silly groups that are not serious are part of the problem.”

Griffin said Ross hosted two fundraisers for Elliott and contributed $2,000 to her campaign, so “she either should return that money because CREW thinks he is a bad guy or distance herself from this fringe group,” Griffin said.

Griffin said he and Elliott “have had a great relationship, and it just troubles me to see this sort of attack.”

Asked about the group’s depiction of Griffin, Elliott said, “What is said about politicians is fair game, and if it’s not true and you can disprove it, then you disprove it.”

She said the group is careful in its research and that it’s “not up to me to decide” whether Griffin is a crooked candidate.

As for Griffin’s comments regarding her and Ross, Elliott said, “That’s really reaching because [the group’s list] is a bipartisan list,” and she doesn’t take responsibility for it.

“I don’t have an issue with Mike Ross,” she said. “I am not running against Mike Ross.”

Elliott said she could make a case that Griffin ought to return contributions he received from several people, including U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who said oil giant BP was owed an apology for criticism it received after the Deepwater Horizon oildrilling rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico.

During Friday’s forum, Elliott said Griffin supports a federal “flat tax” and that Republicans have promised to fight for it.

She said a flat tax would be incredibly onerous on the middle class.

Griffin said he supports “some sort of a flat tax” and that tax would be good for the middle class.

He said he doesn’t support the “Fair Tax,” which would abolish the income tax and impose a 23 percent federal sales tax. He said Elliott’s flier inaccurately suggests that he does support it. He said his campaign website points out that he doesn’t support “a consumption tax.”

Elliott said, “There has been no intent by anybody to just distort any record that I know of in this campaign.”

Elliott’s campaign later accused Griffin of contradicting his previous stance on the Fair Tax, citing his comments on a radio show during the Republican primary earlier this year.

At that time, Griffin said he would support either the “Fair Tax” or the flat tax and that he favors overhauling the federal tax system.

“There is nothing ‘fair’ about imposing a 30 percent sales tax on middle-class families and retirees,” Elliott said in a news release. “If Mr. Griffin supports that idea and has expressed his support for it in the past, I think it is vital that the voters of Arkansas know about it.”

Griffin said he made it clear on the radio show thathe “was open to considering a number of tax-cutting options and remains so.

“The more I learned about the so-called Fair Tax plan, the less I liked it,” he said. “I did my homework. I will do my homework in Congress, too. And unlike my opponent, who is looking for ways to raise taxes, I am looking for ways to cut taxes.”

Elliott said that she doesn’t favor extending the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 to people making more than $250,000 and that not extending them would help reduce the federal budget deficit.

Arkansas, Pages 9 on 09/18/2010

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