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October 10, 2006

The Stink Eye: On the record - New ads suggest Northup’s voting record is something worth hiding

We here at The Stink Eye endeavored briefly to take a serious gander at the other heavy races flashing across Louisville’s TV screens — the Baron Hill-Mike Sodrel rematch in Indiana’s 9th district is particularly loathsome (and annoying). Still, the most dynamic and sullied is our own here in the 3rd: John Yarmuth versus Anne Northup. The territory was marked early on, when Northup went negative and launched a choreographed (and telegraphed) attack on Yarmuth based on 16 years of columns he penned in this newspaper. We focused our eye on that round of invective last week. Now it’s time to look at Northup’s record via two new commercials: one from a PAC supporting Northup’s vision of health care, and Yarmuth’s latest, which calls Northup out for voting in a tax break for wealthy Americans while failing to push funding for homeland security projects like making chemical plants less vulnerable to terrorism. • The National Association of Realtors PAC is running a TV ad praising Republican Northup’s record on health care issues, which is odd, considering her record on health care issues is clearly pro-industry. That PAC has also donated $9,000 to her campaign. The connection, if you’re wondering, is a single issue: the NAR advocates legislation to allow small businesses to form bargaining alliances for acquiring cheaper group health care. Northup co-sponsored HR 525, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, which passed the House last year and would allow small businesses to basically collectivize to reduce health care costs. Under HR 525, these associations of small businesses — grouped by particular trade — would not be subject to state mandates for health care (up yours, Massachusetts!). According to the Congressional Budget Office, it would decrease enrollment in Medicaid, reducing federal net spending on the program some $80 million over the next 10 years. It sounds good, and anyone who works at a small business knows that health insurance costs are rising far faster than inflation. But it is important to note that, in essence, the bill would expand the market-based health care system that is currently leaving some 50 million Americans uninsured. In other words, part of the problem, not part of the solution. Meanwhile, components of the health care industry — undoubtedly the source of the modern health care crisis in America — have collectively donated $63,000 to Northup’s campaign this cycle. Northup’s lone progressive vote on health care issues was to allow the re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada in 2003, on which she had campaigned heavily the year before against Democrat Jack Conway. Predictably, that led to a precipitous decline in funding from the pharmaceutical industry: Northup’s take went from $30,000 in 2000 to $13,000 in 2002, then to $4,500 in 2004 and all the way down to $1,000 this year. That sorta speaks for itself. • Yarmuth’s latest ad is his first to take a patently negative tone, which is at once discouraging and inspired, given the barrage he’s facing from Northup. In it, Yarmuth, who has not accepted campaign donations from business or industry (Northup has taken more than half a million dollars so far this cycle), argues that Northup’s votes to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and major industries have undermined funding for basic security measures in the United States, such as securing chemical plants vulnerable to terrorist attacks. It was only last April that the Environmental Protection Agency identified 123 U.S. chemical plants with the potential, if attacked, to harm more than one million people each. With that, government safety inspectors said most communities are not prepared for any kind of chemical release, lack plans to cope with it, and have no major warning systems to alert residents of toxic chemicals on the loose. Of course, to be fair, it’s also incumbent upon chemical companies to ensure safeguards are in place at their facilities, which is presumably what the Bush administration counts on in its defense of American soil from this brand of terrorism. This cycle alone, Northup has taken more than $22,000 from chemical and related industries, including money from six chemical companies with U.S. facilities. Just think of it: A single dollar from each of the people who’d be maimed or killed as a result of a terrorist attack on a chemical plant is almost enough to run a campaign. And you could avoid the soul-rot of selling out the American People. Write to The Stink Eye at citystrobe@leoweekly.com