Springfield Journal Register

September 19, 2002

Shimkus aides: Pull ads about Enron 


WASHINGTON - The race between dueling House members John Shimkus, a Republican, and David Phelps, a Democrat, heated up Wednesday as Shimkus' camp publicly called for television stations in Springfield and St. Louis to pull ads that accuse him of aiding scandal-plagued Enron.

Similar TV ads paid for by the AFL-CIO for other House races were pulled by six television stations in Mississippi on Tuesday, prompting the Shimkus request.

Shimkus spokesman Steve Tomaszewski said the ads contain "inaccuracies and false statements" implying that Shimkus voted to give away $254 million in tax rebates to Enron.

"There was no way that Enron was specifically mentioned in the legislation," an earlier version of a Republican economic package ultimately passed by Congress, Tomaszewski said.

However, AFL-CIO spokeswoman Kathy Roeder said the labor union stands by the ads, which she said were running again in Mississippi on Wednesday with minor revisions.

"Corporations are never mentioned in legislation specifically," Roeder said. "However, two weeks before Shimkus voted, there was a report released by a group called Citizens for Tax Justice that listed the top corporate beneficiaries and Enron was among the top 10," she said. The report included the $254 million figure.

The original bill approved by the House contained billions of dollars in alternative minimum tax rebates that dozens of companies could have received. Enron, which was leading the effort to include the tax rebate, would have received $254 million, she said. But the final version passed by Congress didn't include the tax credit.

The Shimkus campaign received no immediate response from the television stations, including WICS in Springfield and WAND in Decatur.

Meanwhile, national Republicans formally accused Phelps of accepting illegal campaign contributions, and Phelps' campaign issued a poll showing him for the first time taking a lead in the race.

The poll, paid for by Phelps' campaign, showed Phelps leading Shimkus 40 by percent to 38 percent with 22 percent of the surveyed voters still undecided. The survey of 504 likely voters taken earlier this month has a 4-point margin of error.

Nevertheless, Phelps' supporters contended it showed a surge for the Eldorado Democrat who was portrayed as the underdog in a new
Republican-leaning district that stretches from Springfield to the Kentucky border.

Tomaszewski called the poll "an anomaly" or possibly manipulated to attract campaign donors. The latest Shimkus poll showed him leading 52-37 percent with 11 percent undecided, he said.

The two incumbents were thrown together when new congressional
districts were drawn.

The National Republican Congressional Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over several small donations reported by the Phelps campaign that appeared to be collected improperly from companies. But the contributions came from partnerships or family businesses that aren't formally incorporated and so are legal under federal election law, said Phelps campaign manager Crystal Litz.