FRANKFORT — Republicans criticized Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway on Tuesday for changing his position on the controversial issue of extending tax cuts approved during President George W. Bush's administration.
During last spring's Democratic primary, Conway told the editorial board of The Courier-Journal of Louisville that most of the so-called Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire. But over the past month, Conway has repeatedly said most of the tax cuts should be extended.
"I don't think that a recession is any time to raise taxes," Conway told CN|2 Politics in early August. "So I think the Bush tax cuts ought to be extended for some period of time, especially the individual taxes, the estate tax provisions, keeping the capital gains tax at 15 percent. I think they ought to be extended."
At a Kentucky Farm Bureau forum in July, Conway said, "Extend those tax cuts."
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Those comments don't match what he told The Courier-Journal during the primary, when he was battling Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and touting himself as a "real Democrat."
When asked by the newspaper which of the tax cuts he would favor extending and which he would favor letting expire, Conway answered: "Well, I would, I would, favor letting expire probably the majority, the majority of the Bush tax cuts."
The contrasting statements gained new traction on Tuesday after being highlighted in a YouTube video that was posted on the liberal blog Page One Kentucky.
Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul's campaign press secretary, Gary Howard, said Tuesday that Conway has been caught "saying one thing to win liberal primary votes, (and) now saying another to pretend he is not a liberal in the general election.
"Kentuckians will not be fooled, and unfortunately for Jack, there is video evidence of his amazing back-flip on tax cuts," Howard said.
Paul's criticism comes after Conway has repeatedly accused Paul of waffling on a variety of issues, including taking campaign funds from members of Congress who voted for federal bailouts and backpedaling on civil rights issues.
The so-called Bush tax cuts that passed in 2001 and 2003 are set to expire at year's end, and a national debate is under way whether to renew them.
Republicans argue that the cuts should be made permanent, but officials in President Barack Obama's Democratic administration have said keeping the tax cuts in place would increase the national debt by $700 billion over the next 10 years.
The president has said he wants the temporary tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire this year but continue for everyone else.
In Kentucky, Paul and Conway are squabbling over who loves the Bush tax cuts more. Neither candidate has said how he would pay for them amid record federal budget deficits.
State GOP Chairman Steve Robertson claimed in a news release Tuesday that expiration of the cuts would create the largest tax hike in the nation's history.
He then attempted to tie Conway to President Barack Obama, which has become a key political strategy for Republicans.
"Jack Conway can't be trusted to maintain a single position on the issues affecting Kentuckians, and he can't be trusted to protect our wallets from President Obama's reckless economic agenda in Washington," Robertson said.
Asked about the GOP's accusations, Conway's campaign press secretary, Allison Haley, did not address the Internet videos but provided references to 2002 Courier-Journal articles that said Conway, who was then running for Congress, supported the Bush tax cuts.
"Eight years ago Jack was one of only a few Democrats in the country who supported the Bush tax cuts, and he believes we should extend them now — especially when so many Kentucky families and small businesses are struggling under this recession," Haley said.