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Somehow, We Still Feel Used by Hart Campaign Flyer 

Melissa Hart's re-election campaign has managed to use a CP columnist's prediction that she will unfairly tag opponent Jason Altmire as a tax-and-spend Democrat ... to tag Altmire unfairly as a tax-and-spend Democrat.

The Republican congresswoman has spent the past several weeks killing thousands of trees in an effort to discredit her 4th Congressional District adversary. Voters in Beaver, Lawrence and northern Allegheny counties have barely had room in their mailboxes for their precious Giant Eagle coupons, let alone Rick Santorum's rhetoric, due to the abundance of Hart mailers.

One recent gem featured the headline, "Meet lobbyist Jason Altmire." The last thing one would suppose a Republican seeking re-election would want to do is remind voters of a scandal involving lobbyists -- in particular, convicted felon Jack Abramoff -- and politicians -- particularly Republicans.

"Jason Altmire is a lobbyist and has admitted it on several occasions," says Luke Myslinski, Hart's campaign manager. "Unfortunately, the media hasn't covered the true nature of this scandal, because Jack Abramoff had just as many Democratic clients as he did Republicans."

Apparently, though, the Dems weren't as greedy: According to national reports, of the 171 lawmakers who received $1.4 million from Abramoff between 2001 and 2004, 110 Republicans took the elephant's share -- 66 percent, or $942,275.

"If you look at the special-interest money that Melissa Hart receives, it really makes you wonder who's really the lobbyist in this race," says Carrie Hyun, spokesperson for Altmire.

The piece that prompts our resistance, however, comes in the attribution of this assertion to City Paper: "Not surprisingly, Altmire has joined with the big taxing liberals and called for a dramatic tax increase -- possibly the biggest tax increase in history."

Myslinski says the information comes from a May 2006 "Vox Pop" column by John McIntire that mentioned Altmire's desire to repeal the Bush tax cuts.

Altmire, McIntire wrote, " ... wants to repeal Bush's tax cuts and pass an energy bill that isn't cobbled together by energy executives. He also wants to shore up Social Security by eliminating the $92,000 salary cap on Social Security tax collection. (Right now, if you earn a million a year, you pay the same Social Security tax as if you earned $92,000.) By being candid, he'll undoubtedly be portrayed as a tax-and-spend Democrat."

"Altmire does want to roll back the Bush tax cuts, and that will be a tax increase," Myslinski explains.

Still, Altmire's stance against the Bush tax policy has been noted in other, more Hart-friendly papers; why use CP as your source? Is our left-leaning editorial stance that much of an endorsement?

"We think you are a reputable paper," Myslinski says. "That's why we decided to use it as the source."

In that case, be sure to check out our uncomplimentary non-endorsement of Santorum and gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, coming to their campaign literature any day now.

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