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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Special interests: Tom Cotton junkets and votes with them, but can't get ahead. New poll has it 46-46.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 10:03 AM

click to enlarge TIT FOR TAT: Special interest attacks on Mark Pryor engender return fire against Tom Cotton from Pryor supporters.
  • TIT FOR TAT: Special interest attacks on Mark Pryor engender return fire against Tom Cotton from Pryor supporters.
The Democratic Party kept up its drumbeat today against Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, noting his junketing on the tab of conservative special interest groups that back issues he's supported, such as privatization of Medicare. The party notes, too, that despite a flood of independent dark money advertising against U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, a recent independent poll shows the race tied 46-46 among likely voters.

You can find the full details of Cotton's luxury travels here.

In short: Cotton has, among others, junketed to Florida, Sea Island, Ga., and Baltimore on the tab of the Club for Growth, Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, all bankrolled by conservative tycoons. He's done as they wished in voting for turning Medicare into a voucher system — the death knell of universal health coverage for older Americans and, at the same time, a windfall for the private insurance industry. The insurance industry angle prompts questions from the Democratic Party on why Cotton won't identify the clients he worked for as a private consultant at McKinsey, the world's biggest and richest consulting firm.

Give Cotton credit. He's repeatedly made clear his desire to dismantle the U.S. social safety net. He's a believer in Medicare privatization. Anybody who thinks that battle was won for good years ago doesn't understand the staying power of big money and the belief that misleading messaging will eventually win the day.

A good example is a big new ad buy from another dark money group dishonestly depicting Mark Pryor and other Democrats as enemies of seniors because of efforts to rein in costs of the Medicare Advantage program, a taxpayer-subsidized program that enriches insurance companies. (Ernie Dumas explained that cynical ploy this week.) The group buying their ads won't say where their money comes from — it's a byproduct of the perversion of the nonprofit portion of the tax code and the pernicious fallout of the Citizens United corporate personhood ruling. But Source Watch can tell you most of what you need to know about American Action Network, the source of the secretly funded attack advertising: Republicans, billionaires.

PS — About that poll. Republicans focus on a margin favoring Cotton among voters most likely to vote, not the 46-46 tie among likely voters, the typical standard for horse race questions. No doubt turnout is key for Pryor. But there's also this wrinkle: Pryor trails a generic Republican by a substantial margin among likely voters. But he's dead even with the Republican in the race, Tom Cotton. Is that an indication that the message about weird Tom Cotton is starting to get through? Maybe.

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