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PoliGraph: DCCC skews Mills’s record

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It’s a battle on the airwaves in Minnesota’s 8

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Congressional District.

A new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spot that goes after DFL Rep. Rick Nolan’s Republican opponent Stewart Mills for being too wealthy – and therefore out of touch – with the district.

In the DCCC’s latest ad, a Mills stand-in hops on his yacht, and motors off into the sunset:

“Stewart Mills III caught a big inheritance and a job at the family business that pay half-a-million year. But in Congress, Mills will leave you on the hook for higher taxes because Mills opposed tax cuts for the middle class - even as he wants to give another huge tax break to millionaires like himself.”

This ad enters rough waters.

The Evidence

Mills is the Vice President of Mills Fleet Farm, his family’s business where Mills has spent his career.

According to financial disclosure documents, Mills was paid more than $500,000 to do that job in 2013, and has company assets into the tens-of-millions.

To back up its claim that Mills opposes tax cuts for the middle class, the DCCC points to a January 2014 Start Tribune profile of the 8

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district race. Mills told the Star Tribune that the Cash for Clunkers program, which paid people to turn in their old gas guzzlers, was “another failed example of Washington, D.C., trying to legislate the free market.”

What does Cash for Clunkers have to do with middle class tax cuts? Nothing.

And while the DCCC argues that Mills has said that he opposes government economic stimulus calling such efforts a "sugar high", that’s not the same thing as saying he opposes middle class tax cuts.

Whether Mills would support cutting taxes for the wealthiest is less clear cut.

Mills has said that he would support tax reforms for businesses that pay income taxes instead of corporate taxes. And he’s also said he would support a “flatter” tax code, a concept popular with conservatives who believe it would make the tax code fairer by eliminating some tax brackets.

In its purest form, a flat tax would mean a single tax code for everyone, regardless of income. Some liberal economists, including Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, argue a flat tax would mean the middle class would pay more.

“The flat tax means a large tax cut for rich people,” Baker wrote. “And if the rich pay less and we raise the same amount of money, then someone else has to pay more. And the someone in this story is the middle class.”

The Verdict

The closest the DCCC ad comes to correct is in its claims about Mills personal wealth.

After that, the DCCC gets its facts wrong. Mills said he opposed the Cash for Clunkers program, but that has nothing to do with opposing middle class tax cuts.

And while Mills has talked around the issue of tax reform, giving few details on what he would do, the DCCC makes some assumptions about how Mills would vote on tax cuts for the wealthy if he were elected to Congress.

For leaving out critical details, this ad is misleading at best.