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In Wisconsin, Congressman Steve Kagen Runs on Dishonesty

Reid Ribble is unfairly attacked by his Democratic opponent.

12:05 AM, Oct 13, 2010 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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John McCormack highlights three Wisconsin House races that are ripe for a Democrat-to-Republican flip. In WI-08, Republican Reid Ribble is challenging Democrat Steve Kagen, a doctor whose most notable moment in Washington came when he seems to have invented a confrontation in a White House bathroom with Karl Rove. 

In Wisconsin, Congressman Steve Kagen Runs on Dishonesty

Steve Kagen

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board, known for its liberalism, said at the time that it was hard to know what parts of the story were true because Kagen “apparently was making much of it up.” The paper said the incident raised questions about Kagen’s “judgment and maturity.”

Kagen also raised eyebrows by saying that he was running on “Injun time” during his campaign, something that would have caused a national outcry if it had come from a Republican. But Kagen got a pass.

Now, though, Kagen is in trouble. His opponent, Reid Ribble, is leading in private polling, so Kagen is attacking Ribble as a “politician” though Ribble has never before held office.

In a dishonest new ad, Kagen hits Ribble on illegal immigration – from the restrictionist side. “There are 11 million illegal immigrants in America,” a narrator intones. “Politician Reid Ribble thinks there should be more. See, Ribble owned a national roofing company and Ribble admitted his industry gets almost half of its workers from outside the US. So Ribble lobbied Congress against doing more to tighten our borders. Politician Reid Ribble. More jobs for illegals, fewer jobs for us.”

As those last two lines play, the video cuts from a group of ostensibly illegal workers on a roof to a despondent looking family of five. It’s the kind of us-versus-them argument that frequently earns condemnations from the media and the left as “divisive” or even “racist” – especially from a candidate who has apologized for making racially insensitive comments in the past.

The bigger problem with the ad is that like the phony encounter with Karl Rove, Kagen’s claims are completely invented. Just made up.

The ad momentarily flashes a highlighted newspaper article on the screen to give viewers the impression that Kagen obtained his information from a credible source. The name and date of the publication are not discernable if you watch the ad at real speed, but by pausing the ad it’s possible to read that his source is the Appleton Post-Crescent from March 1, 2006. (According to Lexis-Nexis, there is no mention of Ribble in the paper on that date. A profile of Ribble ran on February 21, 2006, but the quote Kagen uses in the ad does not appear in that article.)

So did Ribble really say that he favors having “more” illegal immigrants in the United States? Of course not.

The article was a short profile of Ribble as a local businessman involved with the National Roofers Contractors Association. Ribble told the paper that the association’s top issue was insurance and that the second was finding enough workers. In the discussion of that second issue, Ribble said that he favored immigration reforms that would increase the number of “documented workers” to help fill job openings. Ribble said that he never hires illegal immigrants but acknowledged that others in the industry do. And that’s why immigration reform is necessary – to discourage roofers from hiring illegals by increasing the supply of documented workers.

In short, it’s precisely the opposite of what Kagen claims in his ad. 

Correction: This post originally misidentified the congressional district as WI-07.

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