By John Cheves – firstname.lastname@example.org
The statement: “Chandler took a pledge to vote against tax increases, but then broke it by voting over and over again to raise your taxes.”
— Americans for Tax Reform, criticizing U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, in a commercial running this week on Lexington television stations
The ruling: Mostly false
The facts: Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington non-profit led by former corporate lobbyist and Republican Party activist Grover Norquist, has booked more than $170,000 worth of air time to attack Chandler, who stands for re-election Nov. 2 against Republican lawyer Andy Barr of Lexington.
In its current ad, the group tells Central Kentuckians that Chandler voted “over and over again to raise your taxes.” It cites five House votes from 2007 and 2008 as evidence.
Voting to raise taxes — as those bills did — violated Chandler’s pledge with the group to not raise taxes on any individuals or businesses. Chandler signed the pledge on Dec. 18, 2003, during his first run for Congress.
But the votes did not “over and over again” raise the taxes of Central Kentuckians, as the ad alleges, unless they were an oil or natural gas company, the U.S. subsidiary of a foreign parent company or made more than $500,000 a year.
Three of the votes targeted oil and natural gas companies that drill on public land, ending some tax breaks or levying new taxes, collecting additional billions of dollars to pay for various federal programs, including the development of new energy sources, farm subsidies and food stamps.
As Chandler cast his votes in 2007, ExxonMobil was reporting a $40 billion annual profit, the largest ever in U.S. corporate history at that time. Since the end of 2007, consumers have paid less for gas — regional prices have fallen from an average of $3.03 per gallon to $2.67 per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Public records show that Americans for Tax Reform is funded in part by the oil industry, which protested the tax increases.
Other provisions in the bills cited by the ad would close tax loopholes to collect $3.2 billion from the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign parent companies; extend for an additional year an existing unemployment surtax of 0.2 percent on employers; and levy a surtax equal to 0.47 percent of income on individuals making more than $500,000 a year in order to pay for expanded educational benefits for returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans under the G.I. Bill.
The extension of the unemployment surtax would not seem to count as “raising” taxes; it maintained a tax at its current level.
The income surtax did raise taxes on individuals making more than $500,000 a year (or for married couples, $1 million a year). The U.S. Census Bureau reports that less than 2 percent of Kentucky families make even $200,000 a year.