A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Garden State Growth

We pull some weeds from the Democratic Senate primary race.


Summary

The presidential candidates aren't the only ones with election woes. New Jersey's Democratic Senate primary is slated for June 3, and both incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg and his challenger, U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, are letting loose:

  • An Andrews ad claims an editorial described Lautenberg as "doing nothing" in the midst of rising oil and food prices. The editorial actually hauls the entire New Jersey congressional delegation– including Andrews – on the carpet for not bringing enough of New Jersey residents' tax dollars back to the state.
  • The same Andrews ad accuses Lautenberg of hiding "his profits from the millions he invested in Big Oil." But Lautenberg's holdings in energy and natural resources, according to his most recent Senate disclosure form, account for less than 1 percent of his multimillion-dollar fortune.
  • A Lautenberg ad claims Andrews "voted … to slash school lunches" in 1995. The bill would have cut funds for school lunches, but Andrews voted against the final version of the bill, which was eventually vetoed by President Clinton and never took effect.

Analysis

An ugly Democratic primary race is coming to a boil in New Jersey, where Rep. Rob Andrews, in a  "surprise" move, has taken on incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg, whose poll numbers have shown signs of weakness. Voters go to the polls on Tuesday, June 3.

[TET ]

Andrews for Senate Ad: "Who's On Our Side"

Announcer: Who’s on our side? While gas prices skyrocketed, Frank Lautenberg hid his profits from the millions he had invested in Big Oil. While the cost of food and health care are up, Lautenberg’s been criticized for doing nothing. And when 125,000 New Jersey jobs were shipped overseas, Lautenberg voted for some of the worst trade agreements in American history.

Rob Andrews: I’m Rob Andrews. I voted differently than Frank Lautenberg because I believe someone has to stand up for our families. That’s why I approve this message. [/TET]

Who's "Doing Nothing"?

An ad from the Andrews campaign claims "that while the cost of food and health care are up, Lautenberg's been criticized for doing nothing." The ad cites a January editorial from Cherry Hill, New Jersey's Courier-Post. But the piece doesn't call for just Lautenberg to be held accountable – nor is it really about escalating prices: It berates him and the whole New Jersey congressional delegation (yes, that would include Andrews) for not bringing enough tax dollars home to New Jersey:

The Courier-Post, Jan. 23, 2008: If Lautenberg opts to run again, he should be asked why, over the last five years during his term, New Jersey's return on federal dollars hasn't improved. If he doesn't run, whoever runs in his place should be asked what they'll do to change this situation, as should whoever emerges as the Republican nominee. Likewise, all the incumbents and challengers up for House seats in November should be pressed on why they haven't done more to stop New Jersey from getting the short end of the stick. … Our congressional delegation has failed to get even close to what New Jersey deserves from Washington and that should be a criterion by which the people of New Jersey judge not just the veteran Lautenberg, but everyone they send to Congress.

The editorial singles out Lautenberg – but it holds Andrews, as part of the state's congressional delegation, responsible as well for the state's relatively poor return on taxpayer receipts. 

Lautenberg "Hiding" Oil Money

[TET ]

Lautenberg for Senate Ad:"Andrews' Word"

Announcer: Rob Andrews broke his word. Andrews has sunk to false personal attacks on Frank Lautenberg. Why? Because Andrews is running from his record.

Female Voice: Congressman Rob Andrews voted with Newt Gingrich to slash school lunches. Andrews voted for Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthiest. Andrews co-wrote Bush’s resolution getting us into Iraq.

Announcer: Sen. Lautenberg’s fighting to get us out.

Lautenberg: I’m Sen. Frank Lautenberg and I approve this message. [/TET]

In the same ad, as well as on his Web site, Andrews accuses Lautenberg of hiding money he earned from oil and energy companies. The ad features a headline that reads "Lautenberg urged to release returns," without making clear who is doing the urging.  In fact, the headline belongs to an article chronicling how Andrews himself, not an independent group or newspaper editorial board, has called on Lautenberg to release his most recent tax returns. In effect, Andrews has recycled a newspaper story on his own demand for Lautenberg's returns into an ad criticizing the senator: A neat, circular and misleading bit of work.

Lautenberg, the sixth wealthiest member of the Senate, has since released the first four pages of his most recent tax returns. But the documents don't provide enough detail to satisfy the Andrews campaign, which cites investments Lautenberg held in oil and energy companies. A look at the source of those figures, however – Lautenberg's most recent U.S. Senate financial disclosure report – shows that less than 1 percent of Lautenberg's multimillion-dollar fortune is invested in energy and natural resources.  Meanwhile, 91 percent is invested in the insurance and finance sector, according to an analysis done by The Center for Responsive Politics.

Andrews "Voted to Slash School Lunches"?
 

Lautenberg shot back at Andrews with an ad accusing the congressman of voting "with Newt Gingrich to slash school lunches." The ad refers to H.R. 4, "The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1995." The bill would have called on the federal government to turn funding for the school lunch program over to the states in the form of a federal block grant – leaving the decision of how to administer the program up to the states and not the federal government. In the process it also would have reduced funding for the school lunch programs. Andrews voted in favor of the House bill, along with a vast majority of Republicans. But he voted against the conference report. Our search of the Congressional Record, news reports and Andrews' congressional Web site failed to produce a reason for his change of heart. However, the bill was ultimately vetoed by President Clinton.

– by Emi Kolawole

Sources

Townsend, Rob. “Fighting for food service funding.; Republican Party stand on the school lunch program.” School and College, 1 May 1995.

Balz, Dan. "Looming Choices Will Shape Candidacies; Clinton, Dole Must Reconcile Pasts with Party Wishes on Welfare, Taxes." The Washington Post, 29 July 1996.

"Congressmen haven't fought for New Jersey." The Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, New Jersey), 23 Jan. 2008.