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Outside groups target Rahall

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Eleven months before the 2014 elections, at least four national organizations have begun ad campaigns targeting Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

The ads, paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Action Network, Americans for Prosperity and the American Energy Alliance, target Rahall for his support of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and his perceived support of a carbon tax.

Rahall has said repeatedly he does not support a carbon tax.

"It's a shame West Virginians have to go through this a year before the election, but that's not my choice," Rahall said in a phone interview Thursday.

The Chamber of Commerce ad is the only one of the three that does not specifically mention Rahall, instead endorsing his likely opponent, state Sen. Evan Jenkins.

"Evan knows Obamacare is a mess, and is getting worse every single day. Jobs at risk. Health care premiums rising. West Virginia can't afford Obamacare. It's time for a change," the ad says, over ominous music and a black-and-white backdrop of Washington landmarks.

The Chamber is buying more than $105,000 in airtime for the ad, the Associated Press reported.

The Chamber also released an ad supporting Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in her campaign for U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Chamber spent about $35.7 million on the 2012 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The ads supporting Jenkins and Capito appear to be a rarity, as the Chamber used less than 10 percent of its 2012 spending on ads supporting individual candidates. It spent a far greater amount of money -- $28 million - on ads opposing Democratic candidates.

"These ads make clear Nick Rahall can no longer mislead West Virginians about his support for Obamacare and a coal-killing carbon tax," Jenkins said in an email statement.

The American Action Network also targeted Rahall for his support of the ACA. In November, the group sent a series of mailings to seniors in Southern West Virginia. The mailings say, "Congressman Nick Rahall and Obamacare mean higher health care costs.

"Medical costs that were already increasing too fast are now going up even faster -- 33 percent faster than before," one mailing said.

But the mailings offer no source for that figure or any of the other figures they cite.

Data released in September by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate that since 2010, health spending, per capita, has been growing at just 1.3 percent annually, the lowest rate since 1960.

"The growth rate from 2010 to 2013 is, in fact historically unprecedented," a White House analysis of the data said. "From the time this data series begins in the 1960s to the present, no earlier three-year period saw a lower growth rate."

In an email, Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for the American Action Network, cited an Associated Press article that said health care spending is expected to increase by 33 percent next year as millions of people are expected to gain coverage to Medicaid or private insurance through the ACA.

The article did not address per capita spending or health care costs and said that over the long term the ACA's impact on total health spending would be more modest.

"From 2012 to 2022, the new law is projected to add about 0.1 percent to average annual health spending growth," the article said.

Davis said that AAN spent $65,000 on the advertising campaign.

American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) organization, meaning it is a nonprofit that does not have to disclose its donors but cannot spend more than 50 percent of its money on politics.

It shares office space with Crossroads GPS/American Crossroads, the conservative super PAC founded by Karl Rove.

American Action Network spent about $11.7 million on the 2012 elections, almost all of it against Democratic candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

On Nov. 6, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative 501(c)(4), launched a $1 million ad campaign focused on Rahall and three other representatives with competitive races. The ads criticize Rahall and one other Democratic representative who have supported the ACA and praise two Republican representatives who have opposed it.

"The president's health care bill just isn't working, and that's going to hurt a lot of people," a narrator says, over grainy images of President Obama, Rahall and hospital patients. "Congressman Nick Rahall voted for it and still supports it. He and other Washington politicians think it's the best they can do."

Americans for Prosperity is heavily funded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. The organization spent more than $36 million on the 2012 elections, all of it against Democratic candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The American Energy Alliance, a conservative group that focuses on energy and environmental policies, has released an ad targeting Rahall for his vote in March for the Congressional Progressive Caucus' "Back to Work Budget."

That omnibus amendment, which failed 327-84, would have increased infrastructure spending and taxes on families earning more than $250,000. It also would have imposed a $25-per-ton tax on carbon dioxide, with rebates going to low-income families.

"Take Congressman Nick Rahall," the ad says. "He's from West Virginia, but he voted for a budget that included the carbon tax. It will kill coal."

In April, Rahall introduced a bill entitled the "No Carbon Tax Act of 2013." Just two sentences long, the bill would prohibit the Treasury Department or the Environmental Protection Agency from devising or implementing any tax, fee or price on emissions generated by burning coal, natural gas or oil.

"To the detriment of West Virginia families, Congressman Rahall has perfected the art of saying one thing at home and voting the other way in Washington," AEA President Thomas Pyle said in a statement. "His vote for the progressive budget, which includes an economically devastating carbon tax, is another example of this."

The ad began a two-week run on Wednesday, costing $250,000.

Rahall on Thursday denied that he supports a carbon tax.

"I have fought tooth and nail for coal every single day that I've been in this body," said Rahall, who has been in Congress since 1977. "There's nobody that's going to pull the wool over the eyes of West Virginians."

Earlier this year the AEA ran ads against six other Democratic representatives and two Democratic senators, but Rahall is currently the only politician they are targeting.

The AEA spent about $1.4 million on the 2012 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The AEA has also received significant funding from the Koch brothers, who own Georgia-Pacific, among other companies.

Rahall criticized the Koch brothers for closing a Georgia-Pacific plant in Mount Hope in 2010, costing about 100 jobs, and also for opposing mine safety legislation.

"They're trying to pedal baloney for their own political, or more importantly personal, profit motives. That's what this is all about," Rahall said. "They try and mislead West Virginia people and I challenge them to come to West Virginia. Say it to my face and I'll let them know exactly how West Virginians feel about their garbage." Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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