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Capito and Barth go face-to-face over ads, issues

October 30, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

INWOOD, W.Va. - U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Anne Barth, her Democratic opponent in Tuesday's general election, responded to each other's negative campaign ads to kick off a forum Wednesday evening in Berkeley County that attracted more than 200 people to Musselman High School's auditorium.

Capito, who is seeking her fifth term representing West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, is being challenged by Barth, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

"I have served I think with great integrity in this office and I am very insulted really when I see an insinuation ... that my vote is for sale," Capito said when asked to respond to an ad that notes campaign contributions she received from "big oil" and her vote on subsidies benefiting the industry.

"That is absolutely false and untrue and couldn't be further from the truth," Capito said. "Yes, I have received a lot of contributions from a lot of people, including oil companies," Capito said. "But at the same time, I voted to take away any tax breaks they have had or tax advantages they have had over the years, so I've remained independent in my voting..."

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Describing politics as a "tough business," Barth said she would leave it up to voters to decide whether Capito's contributions and vote in support of tax subsidies for "big oil companies" was the best way to proceed as a member of Congress.

"One of the reasons Congress is held in such low regard these days is because of that very problem," Barth said.

In response to Capito's advertising about Barth's past failure to pay her taxes, Barth said "I pay my taxes, I owe no taxes."

Capito, who is seeking a fifth term, defended the ad.

"The fact of the matter is that the records show that Anne did not follow through on paying penalties on her taxes," Capito said.

"I think it's something that if she's going to come in and say she's against the tax relief of 2001 and 2003, which would mean a $2,200 tax increase for all West Virginians, then that means we need to hold her to a higher standard when she's talking about raising your taxes," Capito said.

While the candidates agreed on protecting Americans' constitutional rights, particularly the right to bear arms, Capito and Barth disagreed on the handling of the $700 billion bailout bill.

Barth said something needed to be done and attacked Capito's vote against the bipartisan bailout bill as a contradiction of her claims of working with Democratic members in Congress.

"We need to enforce oversight of these agencies and we also need to pass a second economic stimulus package to help Main Street America that would provide good jobs," Barth said.

Capito received hearty applause when she reminded those in the audience of her vote against the bailout bill, which she said was rushed through in four days and poorly crafted.

"Well, I'm sorry, four days is too little time, too much money, not enough taxpayer protection, not enough oversight," said Capito, adding she received more than 700 phone calls about the bailout bill that were divided between telling her to vote "no' and 'heck no.'"

When asked about tax increases for those making more than $250,000, Barth said her opponent has directed tax relief to the very wealthiest Americans, and she would pursue relief for West Virginia's middle class.

"I'm in favor of letting the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans expire, but at the same time permanently repealing the marriage penalty tax and extending the child tax credit," Barth said.

Barth said she also was in favor of reforming the estate tax to protect small businesses and farms.

"We can look at this and say 'whose turn is it for some help and who's been getting all the help?'" Barth said.

Capito said lowering taxes is a way to keep the economy moving.

"Now is not the time go back in and raise taxes," Capito said. "What is a small business going to do when the tax burden becomes so much? They're going to start laying people off or cutting back and that's going to be West Virginia jobs," Capito said.

"If the tax relief we passed in 2001 and 2003 are removed, that will be $2,200 more of a tax burden," she said.

The candidates also discussed:

War in Iraq

"Yes, I want our troops home (from Iraq)," Capito said. "I hope they are home as soon as possible, but we can not unilaterally leave, the whole place would collapse and all of our efforts would be for nothing and we will have chaos in a region that we can not have chaos in," said Capito, adding that new attention still needs to be given to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Barth said she opposed the Iraq war "from the beginning."

"It's time to bring our money home from there, too," Barth said. "We're spending $12 billion a month in Iraq."

"They're getting new roads, and bridges and schools and right here in West Virginia, we need new roads and bridges and schools."

"The whole war in Iraq distracted us from Afghanistan - that's the origin of the 9/11 attacks," Barth added.

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