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GOP Slams Gov. on Tax Remark

By Jeff Jones
Copyright © 2008 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Politics Writer

          Gov. Bill Richardson on Friday provided fresh ammunition for opponents of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama when he told a Colorado radio station that Obama aims to cut taxes for those making $120,000 or less — a far cry from Obama's own promise to lower taxes for families making up to $200,000.
        Supporters of Republican presidential candidate John McCain quickly jumped on the comment by the New Mexico governor as evidence that Obama isn't giving the straight story on his tax plan. Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley said Richardson, a prominent and highly active Obama supporter, simply misspoke during an interview with Denver AM station KOA.
        "Sorry to disappoint the Republican conspiracy theorists," Shipley said in an e-mail to the Journal.
        Republicans had already been trying to paint Obama as an in-the-closet tax increaser. Richardson's comments came four days after Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden tossed out an income level of $150,000 for tax breaks in another interview.
        Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh led the charge on the Richardson remark.
        "Oh, good, Gov. Richardson. They've buttoned up Biden — but you've taken his place" Limbaugh said on his show Friday.
        Republicans also recruited Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., to beat the tax drum: During a conference call with New Mexico reporters, Wilson charged that the Obama camp is "preparing America" for a tax boost.
        "I think Gov. Richardson spoke the truth this morning," said Wilson, who was campaigning in New Hampshire for McCain. "(Richardson) is aspiring to be a Cabinet member under an Obama administration. Someone at that level can't afford to make a stupid mistake like that. He's telling the truth."
        Obama spokeswoman Shannon Gilson accused the McCain campaign of trying to peddle lies about Obama's tax plan.
        "John McCain and Heather Wilson both know full well that Gov. Richardson has already corrected his mistake and that no family making less than $250,000 will see a dime of tax increase under an Obama administration," Gilson said. "The McCain campaign keeps lying about Obama's tax plan because, with four days left in this election, voters are rejecting Sen. McCain's plan to give billions more in tax giveaways to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans — but not to more than 150 million middle-class families."
        Obama has repeatedly vowed that, under his proposal, families making less than $250,000 would not see any tax increase, while families making less than $200,000 would see a tax cut. Republicans have attempted to use those two figures to accuse Obama of shifting his numbers.
        Richardson was campaigning for Obama in Virginia on Friday but took time out for a telephone interview with KOA in Colorado — a key Western battleground state coveted by both Obama and McCain.
        The host of the radio show kicked off the conversation by telling Richardson that, "... People in our listening audience certainly equate Barack Obama to a socialist, basically. Your reaction to that?"
        Richardson called the socialist charge unfounded and repeated the Obama campaign's promise that, for "anybody under $250,000, there is no tax increase."
        Later in the interview, Richardson added:
        "What Obama wants to do is, is he is basically looking at $120,000 and under among those that are in the middle class, and there is a tax cut for those."
        Shipley told the Journal, "The governor meant to say $250,000, referring to the fact that those making less than $250,000 will not see their taxes go up, and most will get a tax cut."
        Wilson said she was "amazed" by Richardson's on-air comment.
        "The reality is, they want our money," she charged. "Not just rich people's money. Not just Joe the Plumber's money."