Attacks Club for Growth on political cannibalism, vows hardball campaign.
Arlen Specter is ready to rumble.
On Tuesday, one day before former Republican Congressman Pat Toomey formally declared his intention to challenge Specter in a 2010 replay of their fierce primary struggle six years earlier, Specter came out swinging.
In an exclusive interview with The American Spectator, Specter, looking fit at 79 from his famous early morning squash matches, stood patiently in a Harrisburg drizzle launching one verbal attack after another at Toomey and the Club for Growth, a conservative political action committee that Toomey has served as president since his defeat by Specter. Toomey resigned his leadership post several days ago and announced his candidacy Wednesday morning, April 15th. The five-term Senator made it clear he was more than eager for round two of what was an unexpectedly close primary in 2004, an election in which the tenacious Specter rolled to victory with an unexpectedly close 17,000 vote margin.
“I’ve been sitting back for the last six years taking insistent criticism from him,” Specter said of Toomey. “The campaign is underway and I intend to fire back. It’s hardball. Hard hardball.”
Without missing a beat, speaking without notes, Specter zeroed in specifically on Toomey and the Club, charging the latter with “cannibalistic tactics” that had lost the GOP control of the US Senate in 2006.
“Toomey represents the Club for Growth which has engaged in cannibalistic tactics. When they fought [now defeated GOP Senator Lincoln] Chafee in the Rhode Island primary, spent all his money, beat him in the general, that cost us control of the Senate. In the Senate…we would have controlled the Senate had we retained Chafee’s seat in 2007 and 2008.”
The 2006 election shifting control of the Senate from Republicans to Democrats cost Specter his long-sought and briefly attained goal to serve as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In that position Specter helped confirm then-President George W. Bush’s nominations of John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Samuel Alito as Associate Justice. Yet in Specter’s eyes there was still plenty of work to do on judicial nominations in the Bush presidency, work he was unable to accomplish after yielding the chairman’s gavel to Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy. Specter’s own unhappiness at the results he attributed to the Club and Toomey was plain, making it clear he would be reminding conservative voters unhappy with his vote for the Obama stimulus package of his work getting Bush judges on the bench.
“Bush left 13 circuit judges on the table and I think about 24 district judges on the table who could have been confirmed had we had Republican control and I had been the chairman [of the Senate Judiciary Committee],” he said.
Even as Specter was speaking, his re-election campaign was flooding the air with a television commercial tying Toomey to the current economic crisis. It zings Toomey for selling “risky derivatives and swaps” in his earlier career as a Wall Street “trader.” The ad, featuring Specter himself as opposed to just the usual candidate-required voice-over at the close saying he approved of the contents, goes on to say, “it’s derivatives and swaps that have now plunged us into this financial mess.” The commercial says the former Allentown Congressman wants to “gamble” with Pennsylvanians’ Social Security accounts by putting them in the stock market, a particularly potent charge in a state that has a high proportion of senior citizens. It also charges Toomey with fighting for less oversight of regulation on Wall Street while serving in Congress. The ad ends by using a word that has become explosive in recent weeks. After all of these alleged Toomey misdeeds, the commercial asks if he should be given Specter’s Senate seat as a “bonus.”
As if the point were missed, while Specter was calmly discussing playing “hard hardball” his campaign had released a letter from Specter to Toomey accusing him of deliberately editing his biography on the Club for Growth website to remove previous references to his Wall Street connections. Notably, the missive was signed by Specter himself instead of a campaign aide. The letter said:
A recent check of the Club for Growth’s website shows that your official bio has been altered to delete any reference to the many years you spent selling risky derivatives for the Wall Street firm Morgan, Grenfell Finance.
Your original online bio (http://www.clubforgrowth.org/toomey.php) stated that you “developed and managed a $21 billion derivatives trading operation for Morgan Grenfell Finance Inc. in New York, supervising sales and trading operations in New York, London and Tokyo.”
Yet your new online bio (http://clubforgrowth.com/pat-bio.php) omits any mention of your work as a derivatives trader, merely noting that your “first career was in investment banking from 1984 through 1991,” with Morgan Grenfell Finance, Inc.
In the 1999 Derivatives Magazine article about your finance career, entitled “Patrick Toomey: From Wall Street to Capitol Hill,” you boast of joining Morgan Grenfell to start a “serious derivatives operation.”
Could you please explain the discrepancy about this basic fact of your professional career?
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