Arlen Specter’s dramatic defeat was only the start of the action in the Pennsylvania’s Senate race. With three and a half months to go, polling between Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Sestak is neck-and-neck, with the political drama unfolding so quickly a Chinese laundromat couldn’t even keep pace.
The latest out of Allentown is Sestak’s formal complaints to television stations in five counties about advertisements taken out by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against him. The advertisements claimed that Sestak had voted with Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time. In fact, Sestak has only voted with Nancy Pelosi 97% of the time.
In a call with reporters, Toomey called the formal complaints about such a discrepancy “hypersensitive.”
“It’s not a commentary about the Chamber of Commerce ad, it’s about Joe Sestak denying that he’s in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi,” said Toomey. “He’s attempting to mislead Pennsylvania voters on where he’s been on this.”
Toomey pointed out that it was actually accurate to say that Sestak voted with Pelosi 100% of the time, because he has voted with her 100% of the time for over three-quarters of his voting history. Moreover, the spirit of Sestak’s votes have been more in line with Pelosi than Sestak is willing to admit.
“The substance, as well as the specifics, are all true as far as Joe Sestak voting with Nancy Pelosi,” said Toomey.
At least two stations pulled the ad anyway, insisting that "it is not true that Sestak voted with Pelosi 100 percent of the time" in a letter to the Chamber. That came shortly after word broke that Sestak had pursued aggressive action against another advertising campaign against him – this time, launched by the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI).
ECI criticized Sestak for appearing at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) event, an organization that has been denounced by the FBI as a front group for Hamas. In response, Sestak’s lawyer sent a letter to Comcast stating that it was in violation of FCC licensing requirements and the “public interest” for attempting to mislead voters on Sestak’s views about Israel.
Sestak’s attorney said that at the time of the appearance, CAIR hadn’t been highlighted by the FBI as a front group for Hamas, and that Sestak appeared at a portion of the event that was “explicitly free of fundraising.”
ECI executive director Noah Pollock wasn’t convinced.
“The notion that this portion of the event was “explicitly free of fundraising” is not credible on its face – attendees to see Sestak’s speech were required to make a $50 donation to CAIR,” wrote Pollack, in a letter to Comcast.
The advertisement also criticized Sestak for signing a letter that condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza goods as “collective punishment.” Specifically, the letter said Sestak recognized that “the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups. This concerned must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.”
Sestak again said his intentions were mis-characterized. Again, ECI didn’t buy it, citing a Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent report that Sestak had recognized his signing the letter could be politically dangerous, but that he thought it was “important to him to stand up for his convictions.”
"Now that his decision to sign the letter is being used against him, he denies the substance of the words he used and seeks to keep our ad off the air," Pollak wrote.
To ice the cake, Sestak used his military service as justification for his support for Israel, saying that his service meant he had "put his life on the line to defend Israel." According to Sestak spokesman Jonathan Dworkin as cited by Politico, the Congressman was “involved in situations with the Israeli military and, while serving the United States, he was willing to lay his life on the line in defense of our ally, Israel.”
The drama comes as Pat Toomey reports a $3.1 million the second quarter of 2010, compared with Sestak’s $1.95 million. That brings Toomey’s total to $4.65 million compared Sestak's $2 million.