Corbett's summer of the Wolf

Posted: July 31, 2014

ALTHOUGH IT'S summer and the living is easy, perhaps you've noticed extra heat on Tom Wolf from Tom Corbett, who wants Wolf to remain a cabinetmaker instead of a Cabinet-chooser.

(Get it? Wolf's company makes cabinets. If elected governor, he'd choose a Cabinet. So Corbett would rather he . . . well, if you have to explain.)

The heat comes from Corbett's campaign saying Wolf is hiking taxes if elected and hiding taxes to get elected.

Also, Wolf lies and is a hypocrite. More on that later.

Why is an incumbent running ads and slapping his opponent in July when even those who pay attention really aren't paying attention?

Two reasons:

First, Corbett needs to prove he's not dead yet so his Republican base actually thinks about voting for him again in November.

The National Journal recently called him "dead man walking." Not the image a candidate craves.

Second, Corbett needs to show movement in polls - which had him 22 points down in June - if he hopes to get big-time donors interested in giving big-time donations.

So spend what you have on TV to try to get within range so you can raise more on grounds there's a shot at re-election.

Best way to do that is keep a fist in the other guy's face.

Hence, ads saying Wolf tried to raise taxes "on almost everything" as revenue secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell; got lower taxes for himself when his company moved to Delaware to avoid taxes that "he forced us to pay. . . . If there was a hypocrite tax, Tom Wolf would owe a lot of money"; and will raise taxes on "many workers" if elected.

The tactic is predictable, and carries an odor of desperation.

New taxes sought by Rendell didn't happen.

Wolf's company was chartered in Delaware after he sold it in 2006 and before buying it back in 2009.

Wolf says the company doesn't use the "Delaware loophole" to avoid taxes.

Wolf never "forced us to pay" corporate or other taxes; the Legislature enacts tax policy.

Wolf proposes reducing taxes on middle-class/lower-income folks by shifting burdens to upper-income earners, which, I'll grant, includes "many workers."

(His proposal, so far, lacks detail and would require legislative approval.)

But if you say on TV somebody sought to raise taxes, wants to raise taxes or avoided taxes, then that somebody won't be popular with voters.

As evidence, we now have a New York Times/CBS News poll showing Wolf leading Corbett by 13 points - still a big lead, but not 22, and clearly enough for Corbett's camp to argue to donors: Look, we're on the move.

Also, assuming (as I do) that most voters are not corporate-finance experts, Corbett could gain more ground shoveling stuff on Wolf's company.

The Wolf Organization is the largest supplier of kitchen cabinets in America, operating in 28 states.

Corbett offers no proof that Wolf's company benefits taxwise by being chartered in Delaware but hints at proof by demanding Wolf release company tax returns.

Wolf did say, in a forum in February, he'd release all personal and company information, adding, "I'll be happy to share whatever anybody wants to see; that's been my practice throughout my business career."

At the time, he was responding to a question about his company's profit sharing. But his answer seems to cover all company info.

Now, Wolf's campaign says corporate records won't be released. So Corbett's camp says Wolf lied.

Expect to hear this many times. Anything taking focus off Corbett's tenure and criticism of his policies helps his re-election odds, however slim they may be.

Wolf, for his part, has options: deliver tax data, redirect the discussion, sit on his lead.

Whatever he chooses, Corbett's "summer of the Wolf" is certain to continue.


Email: baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer

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