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GOP chief calls anti-Djou TV ad 'hatchet job'

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 10:23 p.m. HST, Oct 21, 2010

Local and national Republicans are crying foul over the latest television ad against U.S. Rep. Charles Djou by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The ad by the DCCC, the national party committee charged with winning House seats, says Djou voted against a bill to provide $40 million to help keep Hawaii schools open and save teacher jobs, and that the money would have come from a bill closing tax loopholes for companies that outsource U.S. jobs.

"What they've been saying about him has been an absolute smear campaign, and we need to clear the air in Hawaii so that people understand that this is purely just a hatchet job," state GOP Chairman Jonah Ka'auwai said at a news conference yesterday.

The bill cited by the DCCC is HR 1586, the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, which provided about $26 billion in aid to states in what was viewed as the last of the federal stimulus programs. In an emergency one-day session in August, the House passed the bill by a 247-161 vote, with 25 members not voting.

Two Republicans sided with the majority Democrats as national GOP leaders criticized it as a handout to teachers unions, arguing it would do nothing to stimulate the national economy.

Djou, the only Republican among Hawaii's four-person congressional delegation, voted against the measure.

"We should exercise fiscal responsibility, and that particular bill -- where we were cutting food stamp benefits, increasing the size of the deficit and increasing taxes -- as a matter of public policy, that's a bad idea," he said last month in discussing the vote with the Star-Advertiser.


» Paid for by: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
» Where it's running: Local TV, began Saturday
» Claims: U.S. Rep. Charles Djou voted against a bill that provided $40 million to help keep Hawaii schools open and that the money would have come from a bill closing tax loopholes for companies that ship U.S. jobs overseas.

"Hawaii's going to get a small portion of the bill, and of course I'm always happy when Hawaii gets additional resources from the federal government, but I think it is fundamentally unfair that we're asking Hawaii taxpayers to bail out other states that have been incredibly reckless in their budgeting process and have been unable to balance their budgets," Djou said.

Ka'auwai and state GOP Executive Director Dylan Nonaka called the DCCC ad misleading because no Hawaii schools were at risk of closing and no teacher jobs were threatened. They note the state's budget was closed by June, and by then lawmakers and the Lingle administration had worked out a plan to end Furlough Fridays.

Gov. Linda Lingle was among 42 state governors who signed a letter to the U.S. House in February urging that the additional stimulus money be appropriated in a timely fashion.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the DCCC's counterpart, also has sent a letter to Honolulu television stations asking that the ad be pulled because it contains "false information deliberately intended to misrepresent Congressman Djou's vote on school funding."

"The fact is, no Hawaii school closed or was ever threatened with closure and no Hawaii teacher was in danger of losing his or her job," states the letter, dated Monday and signed by Jackie Barber, the NRCC's deputy counsel.

The DCCC stood by its ad.

"What we're doing is pointing out his record, which Charles Djou has completely failed to do," said Andy Stone, western regional spokesman for the DCCC. "In fact, it looks like he's running from his record -- the record he's compiled during his short tenure in Congress."

Sandra Goya, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said the department always is appreciative of efforts at the federal level to aid Hawaii schools, but declined comment on the political squabble.

The money, about $40 million for Hawaii, must be used for salaries and benefits and not "rainy day" funds, equipment, facilities or to fill budget gaps.

Democrats have argued the money enabled states such as Hawaii to close their budgets with the assurance that the additional federal funds would be there for education and Medicaid.

Richard Rapoza, a spokesman for state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, Djou's opponent in the general election, noted the ad was an independent expenditure by the DCCC and that Hanabusa's campaign was not involved in any way

"Campaign Ad Watch" examines claims made in local candidates' advertisements.


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