Christie campaign reworking sources of ad claim

Gov. Christie. A top aide said that "nothing is factually in dispute" about the content."
Gov. Christie. A top aide said that "nothing is factually in dispute" about the content." (MEL EVANS / AP)
Posted: May 17, 2013

TRENTON - In TV attack ads, politicians often put text underneath the images to indicate the sources of statistics used to skewer the opposition.

But in the ad that Republican Gov. Christie has been running this week against State Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex), his expected challenger in November, the source cited is unrelated to the accusation.

That is now changing. On Tuesday, The Inquirer pointed out the discrepancy to the Christie campaign. On Wednesday, campaign spokesman Kevin Roberts said, "We are adding an additional level of specificity when it comes to the source citation."

He added, though, that "nothing is factually in dispute" about the content.

The revised ad is to be on the air as soon as Thursday.

A female voice in the original commercial says Buono "voted 154 times to raise our taxes" as words on the screen allude to fees and the citation reads: "The Tax Foundation 10/26/10."

But the report on that date for the Tax Foundation - a nonpartisan group that publishes studies advocating lower tax rates - doesn't mention Buono or her alleged 154 tax-increase votes, and not all of the measures were enacted. The report the Christie campaign apparently was referring to is actually about the Washington state income tax.

The report does reference New Jersey, 11 times, in arguing against a 2004 increase in taxes on high-income earners. Buono voted for that tax. But the report doesn't note her name, nor the 153 other alleged votes on tax and fee increases.

The attribution, Roberts said, is being changed to cite New Jersey's legislative website, where such voting information is available.

The Christie campaign provided to The Inquirer a list of Buono's votes on bills carrying new taxes and fees. The votes run from 1996 to 2010, during which she was an assemblywoman and then a senator.

Some of the bills establish taxes, but many relate to fees for professional licenses, described as covering paperwork costs.

For example, Buono voted, with near-unanimous support from both Democrats and Republicans, to establish application licensing fees for auto body repair shops, genetic counselors, and home inspectors.

One vote increased the penalties for violating the state construction code, and another mandated that nuclear facilities reimburse the state for security costs incurred by taxpayers.

Some measures were adopted in close votes. In 2004, Buono cast what was effectively the deciding vote on a new 6 percent tax on cosmetic medical procedures.

In 2006, Buono cast the deciding vote on a bill that raised the tobacco tax and directed the revenue to health care. Also that year, she voted to add a 3.5 percent surcharge on the business tax, impose a fee on the purchase of luxury and fuel-inefficient vehicles and increase the surcharge on car rentals from $2 to $5 per day.

The original Christie ad also cites his treasurer's 2013 budget summary as evidence of Buono's votes for tax increases. But while that document details Christie's call for lower taxes, it does not mention Buono or her specific votes.

This citation is also being changed, Roberts said. It will now reference the state Office of Management and Budget, which compiles information on taxes, he said.

Christie's $850,000 ad buy in the Philadelphia and New York cable and network TV markets is his second of the campaign season. Buono, who is outmatched by Christie in the fund-raising game, has yet to air an ad, although an unaffiliated liberal group has been pounding Christie on the airwaves.

The Buono campaign this week also disputed another element of the ad: The description of Buono as "Jon Corzine's budget chair."

Governors don't have their own budget chairs, per se. Buono served as chairwoman of the Senate budget committee during Corzine's term as governor. Her campaign pointed to times in which she questioned Corzine's budget negotiation methods and fiscal policies.

The Christie campaign, however, focused on statements indicating that Buono had also praised Corzine's budgets.

Buono responded to Christie's commercial this week with a web-only ad that cites Christie's "false attacks." It keys in on Christie's "no new taxes" claim, saying "people are paying 20 percent more than when he took office" in property taxes.

And yet, that's not exactly accurate, either.

Buono's citation underneath the image is to an NJSpotlight.com analysis, which shows that the actual net property tax increase for certain homeowners - factoring in Christie's cuts in rebates - is 18.6 percent.


Contact Matt Katz at 609-217-8355, mkatz@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @mattkatz00. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at philly.com/christiechronicles.

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