Adwatch: New TV ads launch in Senate race

HARRISBURG — TV attack ads are flying in Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty.

Here is an analysis of two new TV ads on the air that attack McGinty.

AIRING: In Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre by the Washington, D.C.-based super PAC Senate Leadership Fund.

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

KEY CLAIM: “McGinty gave companies millions, cash to companies that paid her husband. Even Democrats said McGinty did something wrong. Taxpayer money to a company whose owner later paid McGinty. Millions supposedly to create jobs. Instead, plants closed. Hundreds of Pennsylvanians got screwed. But McGinty got rich.”

AIRING: In Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre and Johnstown by the Washington, DC-based free-market and anti-tax advocacy group Club for Growth.

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

KEY CLAIM: “She cashed in by giving fat government checks to her husband’s company, then she wanted to hand us the bill. McGinty’s tax record: higher payroll taxes, higher income taxes, higher sales taxes, higher energy taxes, even higher internet taxes.”

MCGINTY’S HUSBAND

The references to her husband’s company and “cash to companies that paid her husband” are based on a case that drew scrutiny, beginning in 2007, when McGinty’s nomination was before the state Senate for a second term as Pennsylvania’s environmental protection secretary.

McGinty approved more than $2.7 million in grants from her agency to the nonprofit group, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and its subsidiary, Enterprising Environmental Solutions Inc., that employed McGinty’s husband as a consultant. The money went for agricultural conservation, watershed protection, abandoned mine cleanups and other activities, while her husband was paid less than $4,000.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has a long track record of winning state grants, including roughly $5 million under Republican governors dating back to 1995.

The statement “even Democrats said McGinty did something wrong” cites an Associated Press story in which one Democratic senator criticized McGinty over the grants during her 2007 confirmation vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Another Democrat opposed McGinty’s nomination for a separate reason; the rest supported her confirmation in a 42-6 vote.

GETTING PAID

This subject revolves around the fate of two wind turbine component factories run by Spanish company Gamesa Corp. and McGinty’s paid board position at a subsidiary of the multinational Spanish energy firm Iberdrola SA.

According to the state Department of Community and Economic Development, Gamesa won $3.6 million in state subsidies to build factories in Cambria and Bucks counties. Subsidiaries of Iberdrola, a longtime shareholder in Gamesa, also won state subsidies to build wind farms.

McGinty stepped down as secretary in 2008 and, the following year, she became a board member of a U.S.-based Iberdrola subsidiary. She left the board position in January 2015. In a financial disclosure statement, she reported her annual board compensation as $125,000.

After McGinty left her state post, Gamesa shut down the two factories, citing lower demand for wind turbines and the unpredictability over whether Congress would renew a federal tax credit.

Counting assets held jointly with her husband, McGinty is indeed a millionaire. In financial disclosure filings, McGinty lists assets worth more than $2 million, and possibly as much as $8 million.

TAXES

The reference to “higher payroll taxes” is based on McGinty’s support for a Democratic plan in Congress that would finance up to 12 weeks of paid personal or family leave by adding a new payroll tax. McGinty’s campaign has said she would prefer to finance it by ending corporate tax breaks or raising taxes on “millionaires and billionaires.”

While McGinty was Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s chief of staff last year, Wolf proposed a 2015-16 fiscal-year budget raising taxes on income and retail sales. The Republican-controlled Legislature ultimately rejected every penny of it.

“Higher energy taxes” is a reference to proposals at the federal level that McGinty supported, most recently in 2009, when she was in the private sector. That proposal to fight global warming, backed by President Barack Obama stalled in Congress.

The reference to “higher internet taxes” cites her support — she mentioned it in 2014 during her failed gubernatorial campaign — for legislation in Congress that would allow states to tax internet sales by online retailers. It passed the Senate in 2013, with the support of 21 Republicans, but died in the House.