The Columbus Dispatch notes the questions being raised by the Fisher campaign over Rob Portman’s, shall we say…. evolving attitude towards TARP over the years?

The man who campaigned for passage of the bailout fund has taken a variety of stances since then about the program’s worth and how to proceed, from using some of the money for buying distressed mortgages to granting a payroll-tax suspension “holiday” to deficit reduction, Fisher’s campaign says.

Portman’s stance has consistently been that the program shouldn’t continue indefinitely and that as much money as possible should be returned to taxpayers in the form of deficit reduction and/or tax cuts, said Portman spokeswoman Jessica Towhey.

Depends on how you define “consistently.”  Because during the time that Portman was lobbying the Congress on behalf of the Administration to pass the TARP, that’s not what he said.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Portman said:

“…I hope that $700 billion gets out…we can do a lot of different things with the $700 billion including the guarantees and the loans that are talked about, some of which may be a good idea, because it helps make sure the taxpayers get paid back.” [Meet the Press, 10/12/08]

Before decrying others use of the TARP and stimulus monies as a “political slush fund,” Portman defended the practice… when advocated by Republicans:

On a conference call with reporters in October of 2008, Portman defended the $300 billion that Senator John McCain proposed to purchase distressed home mortgages. Portman argued that the $300 billion would help to stabilize the housing market, and that it was already a part of the $700 billion bailout approved by Congress. [Columbus Dispatch, 10/14/08].

Portman also, at one time, believed that the Obama Administration in fact had the authority to spend the money as it saw fit:

“It now looks already that President-elect Obama’s administration will have about half or $350 billion of the initial $700 billion TARP to allocate themselves, with very broad authority on how to do it.” [Rob Portman, Ashbrook Center for Politics, 1/13/09] (emphasis added.)

In fact, Portman himself advocated using TARP as a “slush fund” to fund multiple proposals of his own Senate campaign.  In October 2009, Portman proposed from his “payroll tax holiday” (which most economic experts question the benefits of) from using “unspent TARP funds.”  Last month, Portman then pivoted to saying it should be paid by using unspent stimulus funds.

At a City Club of Cleveland speech in December, Portman said the unused TARP money should be spent on small businesses:

Second, there is about $250 billion remaining in the TARP funds. This money has been appropriated, but not yet spent. My view is that instead of more bailouts to Wall Street banks that are viewed as too big to fail, I believe that relief should go directly to small businesses that are gonna
help get us out of this recession. The small businesses right here in Ohio that, I think, are too small to fail because of the key role they’re gonna play in getting our economy back on track. I think TARP should be ended.

Roughly three weeks later, he then said the same money should instead be used to reduce the deficit and to fund more tax cuts instead.

When Portman says he’s “consistently” said the TARP program should end, he’s not saying anything that anyone disagrees with.  However, when he claims that he’s “consistently” called for the unspent TARP money to pay down the deficit and tax cuts, well, he’s just lying.

Then again, what else can we expect from “Mr. Washington?”

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