For the week of August 19 thru August 25, 1998  

Out-of-towners and black helicopters

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Whether selling toothpaste or running a political campaign, sometimes creating fear is the best gambit for Brand X.

Toothpaste hucksters try to convince unbelievers they’ll become bad-breath outcasts without daily brushings of Brand X.

In politics there’s the ruse of creating fear among gullible voters about the ubiquitous "them" -- as in, "us against them."

The "them" is meant to incite images of shadowy outsiders who should be distrusted.

And so it was that one of Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth’s functionaries, Graham Paterson, dripped poison into Idaho’s District 1 congressional race in hopes of darkening Democrat challenger Dan Williams as a tool of uninvited outsiders.

"They come from out of state," Paterson hissed the other day, referring to the League of Conservation Voters, which is mounting major support for Williams, who lost to Chenoweth in 1996 by one percent of the vote.

"They dictate what they think should be done," Paterson added, repeating the "they" several times to stir up fright among those who believe in black United Nations helicopters.

The Chenoweth camp’s objective is to portray her as the simple hometown girl, victimized by "them" carpetbaggers with no interest in Idaho except meddling.

How much more adult if the Chenoweth campaign argued who best serves Idaho’s and the nation’s needs.

Chenoweth’s problem with the League of Conservation Voters is obvious -- the league nailed Chenoweth’s votes as among the most hostile to Mother Nature of all Washington politicians.

As for lacking an interest in Idaho: the league’s membership and is nationwide, and esteemed for sounding the alarm about decisions that destroy environmental treasures.

Can anyone argue that Idaho’s environmental grandeur is among the nation’s most spectacular and irreplaceable, and thus of natural concern to league members in 50 states?

Furthermore, Chenoweth is no slacker with outsiders: she passes the hat among a wide array of non-local donors without blinking.

It’s all there on the Internet – a trove of data about donations to Chenoweth (and Williams) compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, segregated by source, special interests, amounts.

As of July 1, according to the center, 27 percent of Chenoweth’s contributions are from out of state sources. That’s relying on a lot of "them." Williams reports 36 percent.

While her mouthpiece rails against outsiders, Congresswoman Chenoweth has no compunctions about stashing cash from these worthies outside Idaho--Americans for a Republican Majority (Texas), the Freedom project (Ohio), National Beer Wholesalers Association, National Federation of Independent Business, National Rifle Association, United Parcel Service, Cyprus Amax Minerals, National Auto Dealers Association, American Institute of CPAs, American Medical Association.

Congresswoman Chenoweth also relies on the premiere outsider -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who rushes to her side in Idaho to help prop up her campaign.

Challenger Williams also reports significant out-of-state contributions. But he’s not made an issue of the geography of support.

Perhaps Congresswoman Chenoweth’s advisers have missed this news: Idaho’s economic boom is fueled by "outsiders" moving here to retire, vacation or fill new jobs in expanding and new industries.

Will Congresswoman Chenoweth’s advisers counsel her against having anything to do with "them" outsiders?

Pat Murphy is a past publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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