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Is Rep. Young a Taxpayer 'Hero'?

Alaska Rep. Don Young (R) is in the reelection fight of his life, and when you're in a tough campaign, it's a good idea to make sure you've got your facts straight.

In response to ads attacking his conservative credentials by the group Club for Growth, Young has been airing a radio ad firing back at the group, and at his opponents for making similar charges. "Don Young was even presented the 'Hero of the Taxpayer Award' by Taxpayers for Common Sense," the ad's narrator says. Young's campaign made the same assertion in a press release responding to the Club for Growth ad.

There's just one problem. Young never got that award from TCS. The group, in fact, has long been a critic of Young and his love of pork, and it actually gave him its "Golden Fleece" award, a prize given out for "extreme cases of wasteful government spending," in 2003 over the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere."

In a statement, TCS President Ryan Alexander said: "It has come to our attention that Alaskans for Don Young has run advertisements citing a 'Hero of the Taxpayer' award supposedly given to him by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Taxpayers for Common Sense has notified the campaign that we have no such award and to immediately stop using it in advertisements and publically issue a correction."

So why is Young's campaign making this claim? Michael Anderson, a campaign spokesman, checked out the discrepancy this morning at Capitol Briefing's request, and came back with an answer: Young was named a "hero" of the taxpayer, but by Americans for Tax Reform, not TCS.

"We're going to re-cut the ad," Anderson said. "He did get the award, we just credited the wrong organization. It's our bad."

The natural next question might be: Why did ATR give Young the award? It turns out that this has been the subject of some debate in the conservative blogosphere, with many posters complaining about it and ATR gamely trying to defend itself. You can read some of the back-and-forth here. And of course, the erroneous ad will give the Alaska press a chance to remind voters that many conservative groups don't consider Young to be a "hero" at all.

UPDATE 4:10 PM: Young appears to be growing less heroic by the minute, as it turns out ATR is not such a big fan of the Alaskan anymore. While the group did give him a "Hero" award last year, today it blasted out a press release titled: "Don Young Betrays Taxpayers"

The release quotes ATR head Grover Norquist criticizing Young for having voted for a tax increase this year, saying: "Republicans that vote for tax increases are like rat heads in Coke bottles. They ruin the Republican brand for all members. It should be readily apparent to a former 'Hero of the Taxpayer Award' recipient that you don't vote for tax hikes."

By Ben Pershing  |  July 25, 2008; 2:42 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign  
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