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REMARKS: LA Dems Executive Director Handwerk Denounces AFP’s Anti-Louisiana Agenda, Group’s Efforts To Kill Senate’s Flood Insurance Bill

Bill Cassidy Literally Thanked Koch Brothers’ Group For Millions In False Attack Ads

Baton Rouge, Louisiana – On a press conference call this morning, Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk denounced the Koch brothers group Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) anti-Louisiana agenda and efforts to kill bipartisan flood insurance reform.

AFP is spending millions of dollars almost single-handedly waging an anti-Landrieu ad campaign on behalf of Congressman Bill Cassidy, whom the billionaire Koch brothers have endorsed. Bill Cassidy’s public relationship with AFP dates back to at least November of 2013, when Cassidy literally thanked a staff member of the IE group while campaigning at one of their events. He conveniently left the AFP event off of his official campaign schedule.

AFP endorsed plans to slash seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits. The group advocated for Governor Jindal’s misguided and widely panned tax plan. Now AFP is trying to kill bipartisan flood insurance reform, which would delay massive rate hikes from hurting half a million Louisianians.

See Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk’s prepared remarks from today’s press conference call below:

Last cycle, shadowy special interest groups linked to the billionaire Koch brothers spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to influence the 2012 elections. If the last several months are any indication, they’re planning to do it again.

Since September of last year, AFP has been blanketing Louisiana with millions of dollars worth of false, negative attack ads against Sen. Mary Landrieu. The beneficiary of their ad campaign is Congressman Bill Cassidy, whom the Koch brothers have endorsed.

Bill Cassidy’s public relationship with the Koch brothers and AFP dates back to at least November of 2013, when Cassidy showed up unannounced at an AFP event and literally thanked an AFP staffer for their negative attack ads.

The thing about those negative attack ads… is they just aren’t true. In fact if you visit Politifact.org, you’ll see that not a single ad by AFP has ever been rated true, or even mostly true – but for AFP, that’s par for the course.

You see, for AFP there’s no such thing as accountability. AFP is set up as a 501c4, which means the group doesn’t have to disclose a single source of its funding, not even a single donor. All of the millions AFP is spending go completely undisclosed. AFP is the embodiment of secret money in politics.

And when you get past their false attack ads and look at what AFP is really fighting for, one thing becomes crystal clear: AFP’s interests are not Louisiana’s interests, and AFP’s agenda is plainly anti-Louisiana.

AFP supports slashing Social Security and Medicare benefits for up to 600,000 Louisiana seniors. The group advocated privatizing Social Security during the Bush administration. For Louisiana’s seniors, that could have meant the end for their retirement savings during the Great Recession. AFP also supported the extreme Ryan budget plan, a plan that would have ended Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program. That would mean increased costs by more than $6,000 for hundreds of thousands of seniors in Louisiana.

But AFP’s anti-Louisiana agenda doesn’t end there. AFP strongly advocated for Governor Bobby Jindal’s disastrous plan to replace our income tax with a massive sales tax. We all remember how that went. If AFP had been in charge of our state government, we’d have raised billions in taxes on the backs of small businesses and the middle class in order to finance a tax cut for the super wealthy.

After advocating devastating cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and then trying to ram through Bobby Jindal’s disastrous tax plan, now the Koch brothers and AFP are trying to kill the bipartisan flood insurance reform bill that passed the Senate last week.

Not only does AFP support Biggert-Waters, the very piece of legislation causing massive insurance rate hikes for 500,000 Louisianians, but while Sen. Landrieu was working alongside Sen. Vitter to lead Senate passage of the flood insurance reform bill to fix Biggert-Waters, AFP was trying to kill the bill.

In a letter to Congress, AFP instructed members of Congress to back an amendment by Sen. Pat Toomey because it would – QUOTE – “preserve the crux” – END QUOTE – of Biggert-Waters.

As we all know, fixing flood insurance isn’t a partisan issue for Louisiana. Our entire delegation, including Congressman Richmond, Congressman Boustany and Congressman Cassidy, supports passing the Senate’s flood bill… and AFP is standing in the way.

If AFP has its way, half a million in Louisiana will continue to suffer astronomical increases in the costs of their flood insurance. That’s not what Louisianians want, and it’s certainly not what we need to move our state forward.

The bottom line is this: what AFP wants would hurt Louisiana.

Between their efforts to kill bipartisan flood insurance reform, slash seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits and enact Bobby Jindal’s disastrous failed tax plan, it’s clear that the Koch brothers and AFP aren’t on the side of Louisiana families.

BACKGROUND

“Louisiana Has Nearly 500,000 NFIP Policies And There Are More Than 5.5 Million Policyholders Nationwide.” [The Advocate, 10/2/13]

In 2013, Senator Toomey Blocked Legislation Proposed By Senator Landrieu To Delay Flood Insurance Premium Hikes. “Last year, Toomey used Senate rules to block a vote on another delaying measure proposed by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.” [Times-Picayune, 1/27/14]

Koch Companies Endorsed Cassidy, Saying “We Believe Dr. Cassidy’s Positions Are Most Aligned With Ours In This Race.” ‘”Koch has historically supported candidates who have espoused free-market principles and policies. Based on his previous voting record and public statements, we believe Dr. Cassidy’s positions are most aligned with ours in this race,’ wrote Koch Companies Public Sector LLC President Philip Ellender in an email last week.” [The Advertiser, 2/2/14]

Americans For Prosperity Supported Biggert-Waters And Opposed Any Delays To Flood Policy Premium Increases

Americans For Prosperity Opposed The “ Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act” In Favor Of The Toomey Amendment. [Americans For Prosperity, 1/28/14]

September 2013: Americans For Prosperity Signed A Letter Calling On Congress To Resist Delaying Biggert-Waters. “On behalf of the millions of members of the undersigned organizations, we write to urge you to oppose efforts to extend wasteful flood insurance subsidies for an additional year. Last year’s overhaul of the National Flood Insurance Program, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, included important changes to the program’s structure to reduce costs to taxpayers and risks to homeowners. The crux of that reform, a phase-out of subsidies to transition more participants to risk-based rates, was a necessary improvement to a troubled program in massive debt to taxpayers. Efforts to delay these changes must be resisted. … Passage of Biggert-Waters last year was a step in the right direction of a freer flood insurance market that is not built on payouts from taxpayers. Gutting that reform by eliminating its central component of phased-out subsidies for one year would undo that progress and put taxpayers on the hook for billions more in NFIP costs. We urge you to resist such efforts.” [R Street, 9/18/13]

Americans For Prosperity Endorsed Privatizing Social Security, Ending Medicare As We Know It, And Opposed Expanding Children’s Health Insurance

Americans For Prosperity Foundation Advocated For Privatizing Social Security. “Personal accounts would allow millions of younger workers to have part of their Social Security taxes automatically invested in secure, diversified bond funds and stock funds, similar to what many workers already do with 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).” [Americans for Prosperity Foundation, 6/6/05]

Americans For Prosperity: “Overall, AFP Supports The Ryan Plan.” [Americans For Prosperity, 3/14/13]

  • The Ryan Plan “Would End Traditional Medicare By Capping Spending And Offer Vouchers To Buy Private Insurance.” “The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Obama pushed for doesn’t cut Medicare; it simply reduces projected future increases in costs by $700 billion over 10 years. […] Those same reductions in the future growth of Medicare are contained in the budget bills sponsored by Ryan and approved by the same House Republicans who now say they’ll campaign against the provision. Romney has endorsed the Ryan plan. The difference is the savings in the Republican bill don’t go to help seniors with their prescription drug costs. In fact, Ryan’s legislation increases the amount senior citizens will have to pay for drugs since it repeals the health-care legislation that provides the extra subsidy. Ryan’s budget bill also would end traditional Medicare by capping spending and offer vouchers to buy private insurance.” [Bloomberg, 8/13/12]
  • The Ryan Plan “Would Essentially End Medicare.” “Republicans will present this week a 2012 budget proposal that would cut more than $4 trillion from federal spending projected over the next decade and transform the Medicare health program for the elderly, a move that will dramatically reshape the budget debate in Washington. The budget has been prepared by Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, and it represents the most complete attempt so far by Republicans to make good on their promises during the 2010 midterm elections to cut government spending and deficits. Though Rep. Ryan based the Medicare portion of his budget on a previous plan created in collaboration with a Democrat, Alice Rivlin, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and long-time budget expert, the current plan isn’t likely to get much Democratic support. Instead, it will set up a broad debate over spending and the role of government heading into the 2012 general election. The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11]

Americans For Prosperity Praised President Bush’s Veto Of An Expansion Of The Children’s Health Insurance Program. [Americans for Prosperity, 10/16/07]

Americans For Prosperity Is A Shadowy Special Interest Group Which Does Not Disclose Its Donors And Runs Misleading Ads

Americans For Prosperity Does Not Disclose Its Donors. “Non-profit organizations such as Americans for Prosperity do not have to report contribution information, including the identity of donors, to the Federal Election Commission. They can spend money advocating for the election or defeat of presidential candidates, and those expenditures must be reported to the F.E.C.” [New York Times, accessed 9/21/13]

PolitiFact: Americans For Prosperity Has Received 0 “True” Or “Mostly True” Ratings. [PolitiFact, Americans for Prosperity, accessed 10/28/13]

FactCheck.org On An Anti-Obamacare Americans For Prosperity Ad: “Don’t Expect Honest Answers From A Partisan Anti-Obamacare Campaign.” “An ad from a conservative advocacy group [Americans for Prosperity] attacks the federal health care law by asking misleading and loaded questions about its impact. […] We’re not suggesting that the Affordable Care Act shouldn’t prompt questions and concern from Americans. […] But don’t expect honest answers from a partisan anti-Obamacare campaign.” [FactCheck.org7/11/13]

Bill Cassidy Thanked Americans For Prosperity For Their False Ads. “‘Thank y’all for the ads you’re running,” Cassidy told one of the Americans for Prosperity workers. ‘Obviously, you care deeply about our country, and Obamacare is a bad thing.’” [The Advocate, 11/9/13]

New York Times Editorial: One Of Americans For Prosperity’s Ads Is “Full Of Distortions And Lies.” “As Carl Hulse of The Times reported recently, Democrats have been staggered by a $20 million advertising blitz produced by Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group organized and financed by the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists. […] In one typical example, the group’s ad against Representative Gary Peters of Michigan, a Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat, is full of distortions and lies. It accuses Mr. Peters of lying when he said the law bars cancellations of insurance policies. Mr. Peters happened to be right, as millions of people who once faced losing all insurance after they got sick now appreciate. The 225,000 Michigan residents who the ad said received ‘cancellation notices’ were actually told that they could change to a better policy; they were not told they could no longer have insurance, as the ad implies. And though the ad said health care costs are ‘skyrocketing,’ national spending on health care is now growing at the slowest pace ever recorded, in part because of the reform law.” [Editorial, New York Times, 1/25/14]

Americans For Prosperity Supported Jindal’s Plan To Replace The Income Tax With A Larger Sales Tax

Americans For Prosperity Strongly Advocated In Favor Of The Jindal Tax Plan. “Fortunately, Governor Bobby Jindal has proposed a bold new plan to revitalize Louisiana by making our tax climate more competitive. Jindal proposes to eliminate our state personal income and corporate tax, making up for the lost revenue with marginal increases in our state’s sales tax. This proposal is a proven formula for prosperity. Other states that don’t levy a corporate and personal income tax, like Texas and Washington, have experienced tremendous economic growth over the past decade while states like Louisiana have lagged behind. A lower, simpler tax climate is a proven formula to attract more citizens and commerce to the Pelican State.” [Americans For Prosperity, 1/17/13]

The Jindal Plan Would Have Raised Billions In Taxes On Louisiana Businesses And The Middle Class In Order To Finance An Income Tax Cut For The Wealthy

Jindal Planned To Raise The State Sales Tax From 4% To 6.25% And Broaden Its Scope In Order To Raise $3.8 Billion In Revenue Lost From Eliminating The State Personal Income And Corporate Taxes. “Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tax swap proposal would require a state sales tax rate of 6.25 percent, more than a third of a percentage point higher than previous estimates, administration officials said Thursday evening. The higher sales tax, which would be imposed on a wider range of goods and services, is intended to help make up for revenue lost by the plan’s elimination of the state income tax. Louisiana Department of Revenue Executive Counsel Tim Barfield, the lead official on the tax overhaul, said in a news release that the higher tax rate is necessary to keep the plan revenue-neutral. Officials had previously stated the plan would increase the tax rate from 4 percent to 5.88 percent as part of an effort to fill the $3.6 billion gap that would be left in state finances by eliminating personal income and corporate taxes.” [Times-Picayune, 3/28/13]

  • Jindal’s Plan Included Using An Internet Sales Tax. “Now, Gov. Bobby Jindal is reopening the discussion by proposing to eliminate the state’s personal income and corporate taxes. Nearly $3 billion in revenue will have to be replaced, sparking the governor’s interest in something he had previously spurned — collecting sales taxes on Internet sales. Collecting those taxes most likely means changes to the state and local sales tax structure.” [The Advocate, 4/8/13]

The Institute On Taxation And Economic Justice Estimated The Bottom 80% Of Louisianians In Income Distribution Would See A Tax Increase In A Jindal Type Plan.  “The bottom 80 percent of Louisianans in the income distribution would see a tax increase from repealing the personal and corporate income taxes and replacing them with a higher sales tax. The poorest 20 percent of taxpayers, those with an average income of $12,000, would see an average tax increase of $395, or 3.4 percent of their income, if no low income tax relief mechanism is offered.” [Institute on Taxation and Economic Justice, January 2013]

The CBPP Found That Higher Sales Taxes Increase The Burden Of Paying For Public Services To The Lower Income And Businesses. “Families with moderate and low incomes pay more sales and property taxes, as a share of their incomes, than higher-income families because they spend a higher proportion of their earnings on taxable goods and housing.  Thus, increased sales and property taxes would shift a larger share of the responsibility for paying for schools, health care, and other services onto those with relatively less ability to afford it Higher sales and property taxes will affect businesses, too.  In every state, a substantial share of sales taxes comes from business-to-business purchases, and a large share of property taxes is paid directly by businesses too. Any reduction in income tax on business profits is likely to be offset, at least in part, by higher taxes on business purchases and on agricultural and commercial property”. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/22/12]

The Tax Policy Center: “The Proposal Would Dramatically Shift More Of The Burden Of Louisiana’s Taxes Onto Lower-Income Individuals.”  “Broadening the sales tax base is a mixed bag. On one hand, taxing more goods and services helps to limit the tax’s distortions across consumption and also allows for a lower tax rate, all else equal. But base broadening can also push more of the burden to low-income households. Louisiana currently excludes groceries and utilities from taxation; taxing them would be especially difficult for families with limited resources. In fact, even without base broadening, the proposal would dramatically shift more of the burden of Louisiana’s taxes onto lower-income individuals. Since low-income households devote a higher share of their income to consumption, they end up paying higher effective tax rates than higher-income households which tend to spend less and save more. This concern is particularly stark in Louisiana, which was recently ranked as the sixth most unequal state in the country by one measure of inequality.” [Tax Policy Center, 1/14/13]

Jindal’s Administration Admitted Their Plan Would Raise At Least $500 Million In Taxes On Businesses. “Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed tax swap would shift about $500 million in taxes from residents to businesses, the administration’s point man on the tax proposal told a legislative committee Tuesday. That shift came up as lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee sought answers from Tim Barfield, the Department of Revenue’s executive Counsel, on how the administration planned to keep the proposed revenue neutral when its estimates suggested Louisiana taxpayers of all income brackets would see their taxes decrease.” [Times-Picayune, 3/26/13]

Jindal’s Tax Plan Would Give Louisiana The Highest Average Combined State and Local Sales Tax In The Country. “Jindal did not note – until pressed during a brief meeting with reporters afterward – that the 1.88-cent increase would push Louisiana to the highest average combined state and local sales tax rate in the country, at 10.75 percent. He sought to counter that by saying the effective sales tax rate – after figuring in exemptions – would put Louisiana in the middle among states.” [The Lens, 3/14/13]

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