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Tomblin unveils attack ad

MCT REGIONAL NEWS

By Ry Rivard

Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Sept. 14--CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Democrat acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin released his first attack ad of the 2011 election cycle on Tuesday, a sign that his lead against Republican Bill Maloney has shrunk.

The ad attempts to make Maloney seem like an outsider by, among other things, noting that Maloney was born and raised in the state of New York. Maloney moved to West Virginia after college.

The Tomblin ad also hits Maloney, the founder of a drilling company in Morgantown, for being wealthy. The ad follows the playbook Democrat Joe Manchin successfully used in last year's U.S. Senate race against Republican businessman John Raese.

Tomblin also knocks Maloney for incorporating a company in Delaware. Basing a company in Delaware is commonly done to take advantage of that state's business-friendly tax and legal system.

Walmart -- West Virginia's largest employer -- is incorporated in Delaware. So is Macy's, a company Tomblin's administration and campaign has touted over and over again in recent weeks because it's opening a new facility in the Eastern Panhandle.

The administration even helped prepare an incentive package to lure Macy's to West Virginia.

Companies that are incorporated in Delaware but operate in other states can use that arrangement to reduce their tax burden. Maloney said the company paid nearly $1 million in West Virginia taxes from 2003 to 2006, which is the year he sold the company. He said that the only thing he had paid to Delaware was a minimal registration fee and that he had not used that state to duck West Virginia taxes.

Tomblin's ad also attacks Maloney for owning an out-of-state home in a gated community. Tomblin also has an out-of-state home in a gated community.

Tomblin's second home in South Carolina is apparently larger than Maloney's, although Maloney's second home is worth more than twice as much and is in a more exclusive community than Tomblin's.

The Tomblin ad also attacks Maloney for selling his business to owners who later moved it to Pennsylvania. The decision to move the business was made after Maloney sold it.

Whatever the ad's effect on voters, the Tomblin ad suggests the race has narrowed and that Tomblin's once formidable double-digit lead has shrunk. A recent poll suggested Tomblin was leading by only 6 points, though it had nearly a 4 percent margin of error.

Tomblin maintained upbeat ads during the Democratic primary this spring even while his opponents attacked him.

The Maloney campaign has been attacking Tomblin for a few weeks now. Maloney's attacks have centered on the state money Tomblin's mother and brother receive to breed and race greyhound dogs.

Another ad released Tuesday, paid for by the Republican Governors Association, also hammered Tomblin on the greyhound issue.

The Tomblin campaign has taken issue with the characterization of the breeders fund in ads.

An ad Maloney released last Wednesday said Tomblin voted "to direct" the money to his family business as a member of the Legislature. While Tomblin did vote for the bill that set up the fund, the money is distributed based on the performance of the dogs and is not something Tomblin directly controls.

"How can I sit out there and control that an animal wins?" Tombin said during a televised debate Tuesday night.

The Tomblin campaign has also made the point that the fund is similar to one established for horse racing.

While Maloney has said he would eliminate the fund for greyhounds, he has not said the same thing about the fund for horses.

"I kind of like horses, sorry," Maloney said during the Tuesday debate.

The horse industry employs hundreds and contributes millions of dollars to the Eastern Panhandle economy. The industry is a powerful lobby there.

The Tomblin campaign also notes that money that goes to the dogs comes from gambling revenue, not taxpayer dollars. But the point is somewhat moot because the money could nonetheless be used for other purposes if the Legislature chose to redirect it.

Likewise, the Tomblin campaign pushed back against the Maloney campaign's claim that in 2004 Tomblin helped cut the program that helps poor families buy school clothes for their children.

"The clothing allowance for children in West Virginia has never decreased and currently stands at $200 a year thanks to the actions of Joe Manchin and Earl Ray Tomblin," said Chris Stadelman, spokesman for the Tomblin campaign.

"Maloney should be ashamed of himself for lying about Earl Ray's record and the help that West Virginia gives to its neediest children."

But that's not the whole picture either.

State lawmakers did in fact vote to cut funding for the voucher program in 2004 from $150 to $100. That 33 percent cut was made as part of a $37 million budget reduction at the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

But the Tomblin campaign is able to maintain that the program "never decreased" because of a last-minute save by the federal government. Families did end up receiving the full $150 -- but only because of a windfall from the federal government that came after the school year had begun. Officials used the federal money to send $50 to qualifying families whose vouchers had been cut earlier in the year.

Tomblin was asked Tuesday night about his involvement in Southern Amusement, a company that operated video poker machines. His family owned the company and he kept the books for the company. It was later sold.

"I was never a party to an illegal business," Tomblin said. "I never owned any part of that business. It was a family business. There was never any allegations that Southern Amusement Company did anything wrong while my family owned it."

The Maloney campaign noted a press release that the company had been cited a few times for failing to pay certain taxes.

But Maloney ducked questions Tuesday night about whether he thought Tomblin himself had done anything illegal or unethical.

Last week, Maloney told the Daily Mail he was simply trying to talk about ethics when he brought up the greyhounds.

"What we're doing is saying we need some ethical reforms and when there's a vote that affects you or your family, you should recuse yourself, and that's the crux of what we're saying," Maloney said.

He also denied going after anybody's family, even though his ads have pointedly mentioned Tomblin's family.

"We didn't talk about people's families; we're not doing that," Maloney said. "It's all factual stuff that you guys have written on. I wish we didn't have to do these things but people need to know about them."

He added, "Sometimes the tone isn't so nice, I agree."

Tomblin told the Daily Mail he had been able to stay positive during the Democratic primary.

"It'd be my preference to -- let's talk about the issues affecting West Virginia and how we're going to make this state better moving forward," Tomblin said last week.

But that was apparently before it became clear the race was getting closer.

Contact writer Ry Rivard at ry.rivard@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796.

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(c)2011 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)

Visit the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.) at www.dailymail.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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