Richard Lugar has a reputation as a distinguished statesman. He’s knowledgeable about foreign policy and has done valuable work securing the former Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal. He’s respected by both Republicans and Democrats. He’s in danger of throwing all of that away with an underhanded, highly dishonest attack on his opponent. Lugar looks like a typical politician desperate to keep his seat.
At issue is the property tax exemption that Richard Mourdock got for his Indianapolis home. This is an issue that flared up over the summer, and was settled months ago. A property tax exemption had been mistakenly applied to Mourdock’s home by the Marion County Auditor’s Office. Channel 13 reported on June 23 that he “has a form from the Marion County auditor’s office admitting to the mix-up.” The Indianapolis Star reported a month ago that the auditor’s office said Mourdock would pay the back taxes due when his next statement is mailed.
Lugar’s campaign sent a particularly nasty e-mail last week bringing up the dead property tax issue, accusing Mourdock of illegal behavior and bashing his donation to his own campaign. Lugar’s campaign wrote:
Richard Mourdock had taken a homestead exemption on two homes, one in Indianapolis and one in Evansville, which is illegal under Indiana law.
This is simply shameful and well below what we should expect from someone like Lugar. Mourdock did not take two homestead exemptions, and Lugar knows it. It was a mistake by the Marion County Auditor’s Office. Lugar is claiming that Mourdock had intentionally broken the law. Lugar should be ashamed of himself for this deliberate distortion.
This is a dead issue. The error by the Auditor’s Office was discovered months ago, and the explanation is more than sufficient for anyone not looking to take a cynical cheap shot. Mourdock has already made arrangements with the Marion County Auditor to pay the back taxes and penalties he owes as a result of the Auditor’s mistake.
So why bring it up now? Despite his cash advantage, Lugar knows he is in trouble. He has been hoping for a second conservative to jump into the race and split the conservative vote, and that has not happened. Lugar knows that national Tea Party groups will likely move in to back Mourdock as we move closer to the primary.
Lugar also knows he cannot defend his record in a Republican primary. Lugar voted for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and both of Barack Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court. Lugar has a long history of supporting gun control measures like the assault weapons ban and the Brady Law. Because he knows he cannot win the argument on substance, Lugar has decided to get nasty and personal, deliberately lying about his opponent four months before the filing deadline.
Lugar proved yesterday that it is time for him to retire. In the meantime, he should at least attempt to retain some of his dignity instead of basing his campaign on political dirty tricks.