Washington Senator Patty Murray's bid for re-election this year has been relatively low-key. But now one of her Republican challengers is hoping to attract attention. He's produced a provocative new video. It says Murray voted to give Viagra to sex offenders.
It was a memorable moment during the Senate health care debate. Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, introduced an amendment “prohibiting coverage of Viagra” for sex offenders.
Tom Coburn: “So that erectile dysfunction drugs are not paid for by the American taxpayers to convicted rapists, convicted sexual assault and pedophiles in this country.”
Coburn, a physician by training, said this was a serious amendment. But that's not how Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana saw it.
Max Baucus: “It's a crass political stunt aimed at 30-second commercials, not public policy. I urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment.”
And oppose Democrats did. Flash forward to today and Baucus' prediction has come true. The Coburn amendment is the subject, not of a 30-second ad, but a one minute and forty-four second You Tube video.
Video: “Would you like to donate to Viagra for sex offenders? Viagra for sex offenders? Viagra for sex offenders?”
The video shows a hipster guy hanging out on the street with a sign and a donation jar. Not surprisingly the jar is empty and passersby are giving him some awfully strange looks. The screen flashes the words: “This sounds like a joke. It's not.”
Video: “What if I told you your taxpayer dollars are already doing that?"
Then the screen flashes: “Patty Murray voted to use taxpayer money to give Viagra to sex offenders.” The video is a production of the Don Benton for US Senate campaign. Benton is a Republican state senator from Vancouver who's running for the Republican nomination in Washington's US Senate race. Benton says Murray's no vote on the Coburn amendment makes this topic fair game.
Don Benton: “While Americans are looking for work, Patty Murray has been spending their money recklessly. And this just brings to light one of the ways in which Patty Murray has been wasting taxpayer dollars.”
But is this a fair characterization of Murray's vote? The You Tube video would have you believe Murray affirmatively supports giving Viagra to sex offenders. The truth is she voted to reject a Republican amendment that would have banned taxpayer coverage not only for Viagra for sex offenders, but also for the so-called “morning after” pill for women.
Alex Glass: “It's a ridiculous dirty attack.”
Murray spokeswoman Alex Glass describes the Coburn amendment as one of many Republican poison pills during the health care debate.
Alex Glass: “And they threw up amendments that they knew were dirty and they thought that they were going to be able to use in November attack ads. And it's pure politics and frankly it doesn't serve anybody well.”
But the issue is more complicated than that. According to an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Research Office, there's nothing in the current health care law to prevent a non-incarcerated convicted sex offender from getting taxpayer subsidized prescriptions for erectile dysfunction. In fact, the issue has precedent. Five years ago a national scandal erupted over Medicaid payments for Viagra for sex offenders. In response, the federal government ordered states to stop the practice.
Congressional Research Office: http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=6cc0bf7d-4413-4c46-b002-ae4789395219
Don Benton for Senate: http://www.bentonforsenate.com/
Patty Murray for Senate: http://www.pattymurray.com/
Copyright 2010 Northwest News Network