Democratic House Members highlight their votes against TARP — despite not being in Congress when it passed

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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According to their reelection campaign ads, Democratic Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper, Frank Kratovil, Dina Titus, Mary Jo Kilroy, and Glenn Nye all voted against the Wall Street bailout. Which is fascinating, since, as FactCheck.org pointed out a few weeks ago, not one of them was in office when the bailout was passed.

The bailout, otherwise known as the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP), was passed as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which President Bush signed into law on October 3, 2008. Dahlkemper, Kratovil, Titus, Kilroy, and Nye didn’t take office until January of 2009.

But don’t fear. Our elected officials aren’t liars; they were just talking about a different Wall Street bailout. Andrew Stoddard, who does communications for the Titus campaign, explained that Titus “voted against releasing the second half of the TARP funds.”

Stoddard is referring to when, in January 2009, “President George W. Bush requested the second half of the $700 billion financial-rescue fund on behalf of President-elect Barack Obama,” as the Wall Street Journal reported. The funds were ultimately released.

Political acrobatics of this kind are fairly standard in campaign season: the ability to be in two places at once might in fact be a prerequisite for running for office. Perhaps the frequency of misleading comments like these is why they don’t raise eyebrows in campaigns. Brad Bauman, director of communications for the Kilroy campaign, told The DC that the campaign was not dissembling by running such ads.

“I think the spirit of those votes that she took against TARP were against the use of the bank bailout funds for their unintended purposes, for big checks to executives. That’s not what TARP was for. It wasn’t to be used as a slush fund for the banks…She had an opportunity to do the right thing, and she did it,” he said.

But doing the right thing, however noble, was little more than symbolic in this case. On January 15, 2009, the Senate voted to release the funds, and, as the New York Times reported then, “The House may still vote on the bailout money, but the point is moot because the law requires action by both chambers to block the funds.”

As such, these five representatives’ votes, as FactCheck.org pointed out, were “[p]retty much irrelevant.”

The Kratovil, Nye, and Dahlkemper campaigns did not respond to requests to comment.