Wednesday February 05, 2014 | 07:50 PM

H/T to colleague Mike Shepherd for spotting a little problem with the latest Republican Governors Association attack against Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and another H/T to PPH D.C. bureau chief Kevin Miller for the context -- S.M.

The RGA press release: "Already Unaffordable Home Heating Oil To Get A Tax Hike Thanks To Mike Michaud"

“The recent string of polar plunges and extremely cold weather has placed an added burden on many family budgets, especially when it comes to heating their homes. It is shocking that want-to-be governor and liberal Washington, D.C. Congressman Mike Michaud would vote to increase the fees on home heating oil at this time. The working families of Maine can least afford to pay for this onerous tax.” – RGA Communications Director Gail Gitcho

The problem: The bill Gitcho is referring to is the 956-page Farm Bill that has all sorts of provisions, including a fee increase on home heating fuel. However, the RGA release doesn't mention a key detail: The provision prohibits oil companies from passing on the two-tenths of 1 cent fee to customers, or in this case, Maine families. It's on page 938 of the Farm Bill. The prohibition is also in the Washington Times story referenced as a source for the RGA ad.

As the Washington Times story mentions, the fee increase will fund the National Oilheat Research Alliance, which is supposed to research and develop energy efficient heating equipment. There's some debate over whether NORA has fulfilled its mission or used the subsidy for a public relations campaign (That's what Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told the Washington Times.). Also, the Heritage Foundation isn't convinced that the fee doesn't get passed on to customers. 

Nonetheless, the RGA release neither mentions this nuance, nor another little fact: 162 House Republicans voted for the farm bill, 63 Republicans voted against it, while 103 Democrats opposed the farm bill compared to 89 who voted for it.

In other words, "liberal" Michaud voted for a farm bill that a majority of House Republicans supported and a majority of Democrats opposed.

And then there's this from BuzzFeed: The RGA is running a similar ad in Pennsylvania against Democratic U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who is challenging Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett this year. "The working families of Pennsylvania can least afford to pay for this onerous tax," the RGA says. 

The problem: In a Feb. 4 press release, Corbett, who the RGA is trying to help get reelected, urged President Obama to sign the Farm Bill.

It appears that the Maine Republican Party is siding with the Heritage's explanation. On Thursday, the party continued to promote the RGA release and it sent a fundraising appeal to supporters.



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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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