ELKHART — His website indicated he backed elimination of the Internal Revenue Service.
Turns out, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock doesn’t. That’s what he said Thursday.
The apparent discrepancy — between his campaign website, www.richardmourdock.com, and his actual view — came to light when Mourdock visited The Elkhart Truth Thursday. Asked about his apparent support for getting rid of the IRS — usually touted in connection with implementation of a national sales tax, a controversial idea that critics say would unfairly burden the poor — he expressed surprise.
“I’m not sure where that one’s coming from, I’ll have to check that one,” he answered. “I’ve never said to remove the IRS. I mean, there’s something called the Fair Tax that would do away with the IRS but I’ve never endorsed the Fair Tax.”
A campaign spokesman, Chris Conner, later said in an e-mail that Mourdock “supports eliminating the IRS ‘as we know it.’” Conner went on, saying that when Mourdock “learned that his campaign website might not accurately reflect his views, he asked his team to make some minor edits.”
Indiana Democrats, meanwhile, took the turn of events as business as usual. In a bid to drum up support among centrist voters, they say Mourdock, a tea party favorite, has shifted some of his stances to the center since defeating incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, a moderate Republican, in the May GOP primary.
Mourdock, currently the Indiana state treasurer, is locked in an intense battle for the U.S. Senate seat with moderate Democrat Joe Donnelly, currently a U.S. representative for Indiana.
“This is habitual for him,” said Ben Ray, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party, alluding to other instances when material has apparently been removed from Mourdock’s website. “He’s said so many extreme things... Now he’s just turning tail and running. This is totally common for him.”
In the “issues” page of Mourdock’s website, in a section headed “Reducing Taxes and Eliminating the IRS,” it had originally read that the Republican backed getting rid of the agency. It read, in part: “Richard supports the elimination of the IRS and moving our system of taxation away from a system that taxes income and productivity to a system that taxes consumption.”
As of around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, after his meeting here at the Elkhart Truth, the section had been tweaked to read that “Richard supports the reduction of the IRS.” The headline was changed to “Reducing Taxes and the IRS.”
In his e-mail, Connor offered no explanation for the website discrepancy. Though asked in an e-mailed query, he didn’t say if Mourdock at one time backed elimination of the IRS and he didn’t say if it’s a case of Mourdock moderating his views to appeal to centrist voters.
“He has studied and embraced various ways to reduce the size and role of the IRS, and strongly supports efforts to flatten and simplify the (tax) code and to move toward some kind of consumption tax,” Connor said in his e-mail.
Ray maintains that implicit in earlier Mourdock calls for a “flat tax” would be elimination of the IRS. The Democratic operative says Mourdock has backed off many positions, including seeming criticism of the Social Security and Medicare systems as unconstitiutional, to appear “moderate and reasonable, and those are two things he’s not.”
‘SKIN IN THE GAME’
Mourdock, for his part, said here at The Elkhart Truth that he would favor implementation of a some sort of “national sales tax,” similar to the Fair Tax. The Fair Tax is a proposal put forth by Americans for Fair Taxation to eliminate income taxes, and the IRS as well, and implement a national sales tax instead.
But under Mourdock’s plan, the tax would be a “relatively small part” of the overall tax system, complementing income and other taxes, not replacing them. Further, he wouldn’t favor elimination of the IRS.
“Again everybody needs to have some skin in the game, that’s what this is about,” Mourdock explained. “We have 47 percent of all American households that now pay no income tax. They pay Social Security, they pay other taxes, but no income tax, and everybody should have some level of skin in the game because those folks who aren’t paying any, they don’t care how big government grows, they don’t have any skin in it.”
A national sales tax, Mourdock went on, would give those who pay no income tax “skin in the game, and that would be a good thing.” In a seeming nod to national sales tax foes who say it would hit low-income people the hardest, Mourdock said the poorest could get some sort of rebate, or maybe pay only $10, $15 or $20 per year.