Thune: new ad running in S.D. college papers is inaccurate

Jeremy Fugleberg

Jeremy Fugleberg

U.S. Senate republican candidate John Thune is disputing a new ad that his challenger Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., is running in college newspapers saying Thune voted against financial aid for college students during his time in the U.S. House.

The ad features a blurry photo of Thune and says he voted against Pell grants, Hope credits and $1,500 tax credits for education. Thune served three terms in Congress from 1997 to 2003.

In an interview Oct. 21, Thune dismissed the charges as more negative advertising by the Daschle campaign and said he has supported college financial aid.

“We take credit for [Hope credits] on the material we send out,” Thune said. “They’re obviously pulling stuff out of context, which is a complete distortion.”

Daschle’s charge is meant to hit home to college students, since over 86 percent of South Dakota college students use some form of financial aid. The same percentage of SDSU students gets federal aid according to the SDSU Web site.

The ad criticizing Thune is currently running in student newspapers at SDSU, the University of South Dakota and Northern State University.

Daschle has accused Thune of voting against students before in televised debates. And in an Oct. 14 rally to supporters at SDSU, Daschle said school funding needed more attention.

“Every single student ought to have access to student loans and student grants,” he said. “That’s not happening today, and we shouldn’t be satisfied.”

In an e-mail response, Thune says the only reason that’s not happening is because Daschle hasn’t gotten anything done for students.

“Senator Daschle has been in office for 26 years and has done nothing but talk about the issues that matter to students,” he said.

Not true, said Daschle’s campaign managers. In an e-mailed statement they list a litany of accomplishments by their candidate.

The accuracy of the ad hinges on the Thune votes, but which votes should actually count is the bigger issue. While a bill has just one yes-or-no vote, there are many votes that make slight changes to a bill. Many votes on a bill are simply procedural. Some are votes against clearly partisan changes.

The ad lists three Thune votes as being against Pell grants, a form of federal student aid. But only one of the three listed is a true pass/fail vote-for the 2003 budget resolution. The ad includes that vote as a vote against Pell grants, yet Thune voted for the resolution, and it passed.

“Going into a long list of votes on amend doesn’t shed a lot of light” on how a candidate feels, said Bob Burns, SDSU political science professor. He said he wasn’t aware of Thune’s voting record on financial aid or the ad specifics, but there are plenty of votes that go into a final decision on a bill.

“The legislative process is very complex and there are many votes taken on friendly and unfriendly amendments in the course of lawmaking,” Burns said.

Some amendments are basic and uncontested, others are in line with the bill’s intention, he said.

“Others are not germane and are meant to distract attention from the key issue,” he said.

In an e-mailed statement, Daschle campaign managers said the resolution vote was included because it didn’t raise Pell grants, as had happened in previous years. But Thune insists he supports bigger Pell grants.

“Pell grants, when I came to Congress, were $3,000 per student,” Thune said. “When I left Congress it was about $4,000 per student and the goal is to get it up to $5,000.”