The Herald Bulletin

April 26, 2013

Editorial: Pence should distance himself from political advocacy group

— Governor Mike Pence’s relationship with a political advocacy group calls into question his sincerity when it comes to influencing and gauging public opinion.

Here’s the background:

Howey Politics Indiana on Tuesday released the results of a poll showing that 38 percent of respondents favored Pence’s campaign promise to cut the state’s income tax rate by 10 percent. This poll was conducted for Howey Politics Indiana late the previous week by Bellweather Research, a Republican polling firm.

A week before, the Indiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group referenced in the first sentence, released a poll showing that 46 percent of respondents favored the Pence tax cut plan.

While it is true that the finding of favorable responses for the two polls differed by only eight percentage points and that could be explained by margins of error and the time that lapsed between one poll and the other, a closer look at the Americans for Prosperity shows it has ties to Pence and therefore would be questionable as a source for an objective poll. The subjectivity of Americans for Prosperity would be especially clear to anyone who recognizes it as the entity that bankrolled nearly $34 million in negative ad campaigns against Democratic candidates during the 2011-12 election cycle.

The state chapter of the organization, headed by a former Pence aide, also happened to spearhead an advertising and marketing campaign, launched in March, in support of Pence’s tax cut proposal. The campaign itself was one-sided and distasteful in characterizing legislators, including Republicans, as money hungry while urging citizens to petition for Pence’s tax cut.

It should also be noted that a Ball State University poll in December showed 64 percent of respondents favored investing the state’s budget surplus in jobs and education instead of cutting taxes.

Now, the way a poll is worded has a lot to do with the responses. Generally speaking, if you ask people whether they would support a tax to give kids a better education, most will say yes. If you include more specifics about what the tax would actually fund and remind people of the laundry list of taxes they already pay, the percentage of favorable responses will probably decline.

But that’s precisely the point. Now that Pence is our governor, Hoosiers expect him to leave Washington-style politics behind and distance himself from political groups that have a specific agenda and will spin polls and other information to their (or his) advantage. Plainly speaking, we want a governor who will speak plainly rather than playing politics.