NRSC to Air Ads Attacking Laffey

Posted September 30, 2005 at 6:44pm

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is wasting no time trying to take down the Republican mayor who is challenging one of its most vulnerable incumbents next year.

Today the NRSC is scheduled to launch a television advertising blitz in Rhode Island blasting Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, who is running against Sen. Lincoln Chafee in the GOP primary next year, sources said.

No further details were available Friday, and the NRSC would not confirm the advertising campaign. But it is a sign that the committee and national GOP leaders plan to continue their assault on Chafee’s challenger — and may hope to drive him out of the race well before next September’s primary.

After months of speculation Laffey entered the fray Sept. 8. On Sept. 13 he began airing his own $80,000 television buy.

Laffey’s commercial, which was called “Mess,” focused on high gasoline prices and derided both Republicans and Democrats for contributing to the “mess” in Washington, D.C.

National Republican leaders, including NRSC Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) and top White House political adviser Karl Rove had tried to dissuade Laffey from running against Chafee.

State leaders, including the Republican governor, reportedly offered Laffey other positions to keep him out of the primary.

With all negotiations having failed and Laffey stumping around the state sounding populist themes, the NRSC began attacking Laffey from the get-go.

As a pre-emptive strike aimed at discouraging the conservative Club for Growth from weighing in on Laffey’s behalf, the NRSC distributed a research memo documenting how Laffey raised taxes since becoming mayor in 2003.

“The Laffey Tax Machine” report noted that “one of the first official duties as mayor was to raise [property] taxes 12.8 percent, approximately $490 for a home valued at $150,000.”

Laffey’s own ad offered the NRSC its next line of attack.

The NRSC sat by gleefully while The Providence Journal asked Laffey to reconcile his rhetoric about gas prices with the type of car he drives. Laffey’s personal vehicle is a Chevy Suburban, which guzzles gas as well as any 1950s land yacht complete with fins did. His municipal vehicle, which he selected, is a Mercury Mountaineer — a sport-utility vehicle equally unfriendly to the environment.

Just for good measure the paper asked Chafee what he tools around town in — and the answer was a Toyota Prius.

The hybrid — and he owns two of them — gets 60 miles per gallon.

Meanwhile the NRSC went digging into Laffey’s investment banking background. What the committee found wound up in a Pawtucket Times article, which reported that while serving as president of a Nashville-based investment banking house, Laffey dealt in oil stocks and “personally profited from his association with those industries.”

NRSC spokesperson Brian Nick told the paper that Laffey was being duplicitous.

“The basis of Mayor Laffey’s message, particularly in his campaign ad, is that he will fight special interests and he points to the oil and gas industry,” Nick was quoted as saying. “But his own personal business dealings jeopardize him as a credible person who can speak to this. … You can’t criticize oil and gas industries for having profited, if you are making decisions to benefit off that profit.”

Most recently the NRSC questioned Laffey’s honesty.

In his statement of candidacy filed with the Federal Election Commission, Laffey said he did not intend to expend money above the “millionaire’s amendment” threshold.

He has already put $360,000 into his campaign so far, which exceeds the threshold.

The NRSC’s outside counsel, Cleta Mitchell, bashed Laffey for not filling out the paperwork truthfully.

“It’s hard to predict [if the millionaire’s amendment will be triggered] when you have a candidate who is violating, if not the letter, then the spirit of the law,” Mitchell said last week. “They’re trying to delay as long as possible letting the public know how much he is planning to spend and I think that’s totally inappropriate.”

Laffey’s spokeswoman said the campaign will correct any error made on the form.