A significant radio ad buy late last month from a group calling itself Concerned Veterans of America (web video version above) lavishes praise on GOP Rep. Mike Coffman for his vote against the budget compromise brokered by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. From CVA's press release:
The 30-second ad—totaling $74,520 and airing regionally on Radio in Denver, Colorado for three weeks—is entitled "Priorities" and praises Rep. Mike Coffman (CO-6) for his principled stand in voting against the budget. Rep. Coffman, an Army veteran of the war in Iraq, deserves praise for opposing a deal that neglects meaningful spending reforms and instead cuts pensions for military retirees.
"While Washington politicians are patting themselves on the back for completing and passing a budget for the first time in five years, there's little in this massive spending package for Americans to celebrate," said Pete Hegseth, CEO of CVA. "Washington is driving us down the path of fiscal ruin by increasing spending and failing to make substantive reforms to entitlement programs [Pols emphasis] and other big ticket spending categories."
Local conservative political blog Colorado Peak Politics chimed in right on cue:
In a race many believe will be the most expensive congressional race in 2014, the ads will soon be coming hard and fast from every direction. CVA is starting it off with an ad for Coffman in which they praise the Representative for voting against a $6 Billion dollar cut to retired veterans’ benefits (too bad our two Senators are rubber stamps for the Dems and have no problem cutting benefits for retired veterans).
But as John Soltz of Democratic-aligned VoteVets.org responds in the Huffington Post, there's some important details left out of this discussion, like the broader agenda of the Concerned Veterans of America:
In a new ad, Concerned Veterans for America thanks Republican Congressmen Tom Cotton and Mike Coffman for voting against the Paul Ryan-Patty Murray budget deal, because it slows the growth of government pensions by lower increases to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). Those COLA adjustments effect some of the government's most important employees — our men and women in uniform.
Now, that, in and of itself, isn't news. CVA was almost entirely funded by a Koch Brothers fundraising network in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive politics. That's their right, and I certainly don't begrudge any group who wants to take Koch Brothers money…
What is noteworthy, however, is that CVA, while running these ads to ostensibly protect troops' pensions, is running around Capitol Hill promoting privatization of those pensions into 401(k)s, which, for many troops, would result in a cut to their retirement pay. [Pols emphasis]
That's right, folks! At the same time this Koch Brothers-funded "veterans group" is thanking Rep. Coffman for voting against a budget deal that included a cost-of-living increase adjustment to military pensions, the same group is advocating for the privatization of all military pensions. Now to be fair, there are probably some number of veterans out there who would prefer that. But the risks are perilous: between late 2007 and early 2009, 401k and IRA accounts lost 31 percent of their value. That, we shouldn't have to tell you, is a lot more than anybody's proposed COLA adjustment.
We haven't heard if Coffman is a supporter of CVA's military pension privatization proposal, but given Coffman's view of Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme," it's not a stretch to imagine. Regardless, this is why Republicans should use caution when opportunistically arguing against budget cuts. It's simply counterintuitive, and the full context of such "praise" could open up a real can of worms.