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Dem group cuts back help for Teague

Steve Pearce, left, and Harry Teague (Photos by Heath Haussamen)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reduced its TV ad buy in the 2nd Congressional District race as Democrat Harry Teague is struggling to defend himself against attacks from Republican Steve Pearce related to his company’s cutting of health care for employees.

The DCCC, the campaign arm of Democrats in the U.S. House, has canceled this week’s TV ad buy in the El Paso media market. The group also appears to have increased its buy in the Albuquerque market for the 1st District race between Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Jon Barela while scaling back its buy in that market for the 2nd District race.

That means the group plans fewer TV ads in support of Teague and more ads in support of Heinrich.

In the 2nd District, the El Paso market reaches Doña Ana County, which is critical to Teague’s re-election hopes, so the DCCC canceling its ad buy there is significant. The Albuquerque market reaches the rest of the 2nd District, which makes up almost all of Southern New Mexico.

Despite the change, DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen said the group isn’t giving up on Teague, who is locked in what has been one of the hottest House races of this election cycle.

“The DCCC regularly makes adjustments based on the level of outside group activity in the state,” Van Hollen said in a prepared statement. “Based on our assessment on the level of TV advertising in the district, Harry Teague is in a strong position. We are fully invested in Harry Teague’s voter contact efforts and remain confident he will win on election night.”

The Pearce campaign sees it differently.

“The DCCC is realizing what we knew all along,” spokesman Jason Heffley said. “Voters do not want the Teague-Pelosi agenda of out-of-control spending and lost jobs. As voters have compared the two records, they have come to inescapable conclusion that Steve Pearce will create jobs. Harry Teague won’t.”

At least two other third-party groups are running TV ads in support of Teague this week, including Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

‘Grasping to keep control of Congress’

On Friday, The Associated Press reported that the DCCC is “grasping to keep control of Congress” and having to make some hard choices about where to spend its money. That includes “turning their backs on some of their staunchest supporters in the House and propping up stronger candidates who have routinely defied them on health care, climate change and other major issues.”

From the article:

“Raw politics – the drive to win a House-majority 218 seats, no matter how – is increasingly trumping policy and loyalty in these decisions, as Democrats shift money and attention in the closing days of the campaign toward races they can win and pull back from those seemingly lost.”

Teague has been one of the most moderate members of Congress in his two years there. He voted with House Democrats in favor of cap and trade, but he voted against the health-care bill.

He represents a GOP leaning seat that, before he was elected in 2008, hadn’t been held by a Democrat in more than two decades.

Pearce’s ads have had an effect


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Several sources said recent polls may be a factor in the DCCC’s decision to cut advertising in the 2nd District. There’s been a gradual shift in the polls in the last few weeks toward Pearce, who led by four points in the most recent publicly released poll of the race.

Pearce’s lead was within the margin of error, and the race remains close, sources said, but Pearce has a slight advantage – and Election Day is rapidly approaching.

The shift in the polls has coincided with Pearce’s assault on Teague for cutting health insurance for employees of one of his companies, Teaco Energy. Pearce unveiled a TV ad stating that Teague “took a $3 million bonus from his oil company, then, four days before Christmas, Congressman Teague cut off his employees’ health insurance, leaving his employees, and their families, without the health care they need.”

That set off a series of dueling TV and radio ads and news releases, including this TV ad in which Teague insists that he hasn’t “accepted a penny from our company – no salary, no bonuses, not a penny.” He says in the ad that, because of tough times, the company had to make “tough choices to keep from laying off 200 people.”

The truth is more complicated than either candidate claims. Teague’s 2008 financial disclosure form states that he earned almost $3.4 million in dividend payments (which is different than a bonus) from Teaco Energy that year. But Teague says he reinvested that money in the company to help keep it afloat.

Teague let NMPolitics.net review, but not have copies of, his 2008 tax records. They show that Teaco Energy finished 2008 about $32,000 in the red. The records state that Teague took $415,000 in interest payments from the company in 2008 – but no dividend payment or “bonus” of almost $3.4 million. Overall, Teague and his wife listed their taxable income in 2008 at just over $303,000.

And while it appears to be true that Teague hasn’t taken “a penny” from Teaco Energy since he took office in January 2009, as Roll Call has already reported, there’s more to the story: Teague’s wife Nancy earned a $120,000 salary from the company in 2009.

And in 2009, Teague listed on his financial disclosure form making between $100,000 and $1 million each from two other companies he owns. So while he didn’t take “a penny” from Teaco Energy, he did make money from other companies.

Teague told NMPolitics.net he reinvested that money back into his company. Teaco Energy has had a very difficult couple of years – in fact, Teague attempted to sell the company to his children, but his personal wealth was the only thing keeping the company afloat, so a judge put the sale on hold, he said.

The financial difficulties continue today. Teague showed NMPolitics.net a list of deposits he’s made into Teaco Energy – some as recent as last week – to make payroll. They total more than $2 million to date.

Teague says he’s optimistic

So Teague didn’t accept a $3 million bonus from the company – and apparently also didn’t pocket more than $3 million in dividend payments. It’s true that he notified the approximately 50 employees of Teaco Energy who participated in the health-care plan four days before Christmas in 2009 that they were losing their health care, but their health care didn’t actually end until March 2010.

Regardless, Pearce’s attacks have been effective because they’ve become the entire focus of the race. Teague is on defense.

Teague’s responses have also received some negative press. After he touted quotes from five employees who praised his integrity, The Wall Street Journal wrote about the fact that three of them were co-defendants in a sexual-harassment lawsuit against Teague’s companies that he settled out of court in 2008.

The bottom line: Teague’s re-election chances have taken a hit. The DCCC can say with its words that it’s “confident” in Teague’s re-election chances, but it’s also decided that at least some of its dollars are better spent elsewhere. But the race isn’t over. Teague is still within striking distance.

In the final two weeks of the campaign, both candidates have outside groups spending money to help them. And both have their own money to spend, though Pearce has the advantage on that front: Finance reports filed Friday reveal that Teague had about $740,000 on hand to Pearce’s $886,000.

Teague said he’s still optimistic. Before Nov. 2, he said he’ll keep traveling across the district and talking with people, like he’s done for three years – since he started campaigning for the seat in 2007.

“I feel like I’ve done a good job coming back to the district and representing the people,” he said. “… I’m pretty proud of what we’ve done. We’ve passed a lot of good legislation.”

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7 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. As an addendum onto this, the DCCC bought $106k of advertising this week for Teague, $226k for Heinrich.

    So the DCCC hasn’t given up on Rep. Teague yet… there are still 12 days until the election, and Teague only needs 75% as many votes as he received in 2008 to do better than any GOP House candidate ever has in NM02 in a midterm general election.

  2. Harry is a marginally better candidate that Steve, but, If he loses, he gets what he deserves

    Possibly true, but we, the people deserve FAR better than Steve Pearce.

    The fact of the article is that DCCC has canceled a very important buy for Teague which isn’t a good sign for him.

    The DCCC didn’t just reduce spending in races it deemed were lost, it also chose races it deemed were relatively safe. Don’t be too sure that is not the case here.

  3. WOW. Once again….REALLY?! First off, it’s obvious that the personal hatred of Steve Pearce definitely blinds y’all to reason. Second, all I can say is…….really?

    Hemingway, for the hundredth time, Pearce’s sell of his business was LEGAL and ETHICAL. The House Ethics Committee, which has an even number of GOP and Dem, cleared Pearce of any potential ethical and legal violations unanimously. The organization that accused Pearce is a left-leaning group. Just read their staff bios. They even admitted in writing, begrudgingly, that they messed up their own investigation.

    Seriously, find a new attack.

    Fred, what about this article isn’t fair? The DCCC is withdrawing some of their buys in the 2nd district. This fits with an article yesterday in politico.com of how nationally the Dems are giving up in certain seats so they can ‘re-trench’ to protect somewhat safer incumbents. Heath is reporting the facts. Do some of his articles upset me because they hit at my side? Of course, I’m only human. But Heath has always been fair and not bias. Personally, I think he can a bit too idealistic but he’s still fair. The evidence, via personal finance reports, exists to show that Harry personally benefited from his companies the same time he cut health care coverage.

    Moe, what are you talking about? This blog has done a ton of articles on CREWs accusations against Pearce for the sale of his company years ago. Of course, as I stated above, CREW’s accusations were disproved
    AND they were forced to admit their own investigation sucked. And so what if Republicans in Texas gave Pearce money? I don’t hear you complaining about the ‘influence’ of over $100,000 in donations from union interests. I don’t hear you complaining that Teague got money from Rep. Jim McDermott, aka Baghdad Jim, who went to Iraq to defend Saddam and who was made false accusations against American troops.

    I am sure I will soon hear the other same old attacks on Pearce. Like how he’s “a pawn of ‘evil’ business/corporations/oil”. Or how he was “Bush’s goon”. Or, how “he never cared about anybody else but ‘big oil’. And of course I am waiting for the accusations to start getting way out there, like, “Steve Pearce is the reason why there Katrina devastated New Orleans” or “Steve Pearce is the reason why Michael Bolton is still allowed to make music” ;)

    The fact of the article is that DCCC has canceled a very important buy for Teague which isn’t a good sign for him.

  4. The Bottom line is Steve Pearce is totally corrupt! Key Energy gave millions to Mr.Pearce because he supported them. It is called goodwill!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Also, Heath, I’m disappointed that no one has reported that Steve Pearce took $4800 dollars from the same Clayton Williams that gave Susanna $20,000 (it was too dirty even for Swift Boat Susanna and she gave it to the rape crisis center here in Las Cruces). After Congressman Pearce has called Harry out for his contributions in the past, I find it hypocritical and awful that he would accept money from a guy who thinks women should just “sit back and enjoy” being raped.

    Second, I’m very bothered that you never took the time to look into Pearce’s own finances. Did you not think it was important to let readers know that he gained more personal wealth during his time in Congress than any other member? How did he do that? Or, did you even bother to look into what benefits Congressman Pearce offerred his employees and how many jobs were lost when he sold his company? Or, did you look into what other employers in Hobbs did during this economic downturn? How many employers just fired their employees rather than keep them on payroll like Harry did. Why is firing someone forgivable where as making a difficult choice about benefits not? I was hopeful that since main stream media doesn’t cover these important issues, you would. I’m disappointed in you for not doing better on this.

  6. Heath, two plus two doesn’t always add up to four. In an acadmic or statistical setting, the comments in this article might have more validity; however, so close to the election, to place this title on an article can be interpreted as partisan. Your facts are not complete; therefore, your analysis is flawed. Even polls only ask a few hundred people at a time. Are you favoring Pearce with this title? Are you implying that the National Democratic Party is giving up on Teague? What information are you truly trying to impart?

    When you go into Teague’s company’s losses, but not into Pearce’s company’s losses, are you being unbiased? Do you really not know that both men’s companies took an economic hit within the last two years? Have you forgotten that the entire world economy took a huge loss in the last recession? By not factoring that into this article, you need to add or change your reporting. I am disappointed in you!

    This is a very close race, in an unprecedented election year, with the U. S Supreme Court ruling in favor of corporations, “08-205 Citizens United vs Federal Election ‘Commission” allowing unprecedented monies from unknown sources to be used. Stating only what you said in this article is misleading. Either be comprehensive, fair, and thorough, or dont’ print partial or misleading articles so close to an election.

  7. Incredible. Some months ago, some local Democrats arranged a local forum for Harry to address the concerns of interested citizens, mainly Democrats, about his record, especially his vote against health care. Speaking for myself, I found Harry’s answer entirely unpersuasive. The lack of sufficient controls on health care costs is a worry. But against the greater good of getting almost-universal health care on the books, it pales. As I recall, at no point did Harry come clean about cutting his employees’ coverage. As I have noted before, Harry is evasive in answering far less troublesome questions. But I would think that, by now, he would have found some way to explain himself or to admit an egregious error which, I assume, is within his power to correct. Though dissembling and callous, Harry is a marginally better candidate that Steve, but, If he loses, he gets what he deserves

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