Schaffer detours immigration forum to defense

By Leslie Jorgensen

COLORADO SPRINGS — A forum on immigration issues took an immediate detour when former Republican Congressman Bob Schaffer trampled Democratic Congressman Mark Udall’s 10-year record on defense issues. Schaffer accused his U.S. Senate opponent of taking positions that showed disregard for both national defense and the economy in El Paso County, home to five military installations.

The two were participating in a panel discussion of immigration problems with fellow U.S. Senate candidates Robert Kinsey of the Green Party and Douglas Campbell of the American Constitution Party. It was the final presentation of the Aug. 16 “Towards a Spirituality of Justice: A Day on Immigration” conference sponsored by Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

“I serve on the House Armed Services Committee so I find myself spending a considerable amount of time here in this wonderful city,” said Udall. “We have a broken (immigration) system. Our national security depends on getting it right. That starts with securing our borders.”

“We have 12- to 15 million people here in an undocumented fashion,” Udall continued. “They work in tourism, recreation and agriculture — all key industries of our economy. We need to expand legal channels to meet workers’ needs in these industries… This is not a Democratic Party or Republican Party problem — it’s an American challenge.”

In his opening remarks, Schaffer said that he and Udall had been invited to participate in Lincoln-Douglas style debates in Colorado Springs, but the Democrat had declined.

“I’m willing to, and I’m the only one who is,” Schaffer declared.

Making the most of this joint appearance, Schaffer sidestepped immigration issues to attack Udall’s record on defense — to the delight of the Republican’s supporters who obviously constituted more than half of the 300-person audience.

“Immigration issues really are, at the core, economic issues. Here in Colorado Springs, the core of the economy is the nation’s defense,” said Schaffer. “Fort Carson, for example, is the number two employer in the state. There is a huge difference between Congressman Udall and me when it comes to the nation’s defense.”

“In fact, I am the only one here who believes the nation’s defense is our highest priority. He listed the nation’s defense as the lowest spending priority,” said Schaffer, alluding to Udall’s responses to the Project Vote Smart National Awareness Test in 2000.

“Congressman Udall sponsored the Department of Peace bill with Congressman Dennis Kucinich — an $8 billion transfer from the Department of Defense to the Department of Peace which would have directly threatened the employment base right here in Colorado Springs,” declared Schaffer.

Bills were introduced in 2001 and 2003 that sought to establish a department to promote diplomacy and peace. Funding for the department equated to 2 percent of the annual defense budget or roughly $8 billion. Udall withdrew his support in 2004 because, he said, it was an impractical to expand government.

“As recently as 2005, Congressman Udall voted against a $453 billion package in defense spending,” asserted Schaffer, referring to the fiscal year 2006 Defense Appropriations Conference Report in December 2005.

“(Udall) voted against authorizing $289 billion in fiscal year 2000, including funds for the United States Air Force; $8.8 billion funding for military construction, much of which was dedicated for right here in El Paso County; and $4 billion in supplemental defense spending that included funds for military health care,” said Schaffer. “I can go on and on.”

“The reason the economy is growing in Colorado Springs, as well as it has, is because of the defense industry,” said Schaffer, who insinuated that Udall’s votes could have adversely affected the defense-based economy.

Udall briefly responded to Schaffer, but chose not to divert time from the immigration forum to counter the Republican’s attacks. Behind the scenes the Democrat’s campaign fired rapid response e-mails headed “Fact Check” to reporters. The e-mails clarified Udall’s positions and votes, and hammered Schaffer.

“I know we’re here to talk about immigration, but if Congressman Schaffer wants to talk about military policies, we should hold a different set of debates, and we will,” he said. “We’re holding six or seven debates.”

That said, the four panelists refocused on immigration issues.

Immigration views

Kinsey noted that undocumented workers can’t join labor unions to fight for fair wages and safe working conditions.

Udall said that undocumented people should become citizens, pay a fine and their back taxes. Those with criminal records should be jailed and deported.

Throughout the discussion, Schaffer claimed Udall supported amnesty.

“That is not amnesty,” Udall retorted repeatedly.

Schaffer said that instead of offering amnesty to people who have broken the laws, the country should help those who already are pursuing the proper legal channels to citizenship.

Udall and Schaffer agreed that there should be cap on the number of documented guest workers. Schaffer suggested a quota based on the labor needs of each industry. They agreed that employers have a responsibility to hire documented workers, and Udall said that a “tamper proof ID system” must be developed and implemented.

Campbell said the escalating number of immigrants has caused a financial burden, making it impossible for government entities to keep up with infrastructure improvements. The problem, he said, would cure itself if “you eliminate welfare and make getting jobs more difficult. They won’t keep hanging around.”

Udall’s fact check

“Bob Schaffer spent his entire introduction attacking Mark Udall, which is symbolic of how he has been conducting his campaign. But on top of that, he repeatedly distorted Mark Udall’s record on national defense,” wrote Udall’s communications director Taylor West.

“Mark Udall has voted for more than $7 trillion in funding for defense, homeland security and our troops since 9/11,” declared West, listing 63 roll call votes cast by Udall from 2001 to 2007.

Udall’s campaign built a case for his support of national defense and members of the armed services. The list of 63 votes, however, didn’t include those cited by Schaffer.

The Republican candidate distorted Udall’s record by omission; however, the votes cited were correct. Schaffer’s campaign e-mailed Congressional Record excerpts that reported Udall’s votes on the specified bills.

Udall voted against H.R. 2863, the adoption of the conference report on the bill to appropriate $453.5 billion for 2006 defense spending. In June 2005, Udall spoke in favor of the bill. Six months later he changed his mind because it had been amended to open the Artic National Wildlife Reserve to oil and gas leasing.

In 2000, Udall voted against H.R. 4205 that authorized nearly $289 billion in defense funding. In a “Fact Check” e-mail, Udall’s campaign responded that the congressman voted against the bill because the spending request was $4.5 million over President Bush’s request — and that was before 9/11.

“The total amount of the spending bill amounted to more than half of government’s total discretionary spending, and the bill would make our domestic priorities — like funding prescription drugs, expanding the EPA Superfund and helping local educational authorities — impossible,” stated the campaign email.

Udall also voted against additional expenditures in 2000, including H.R. 4425 that included $8.8 billion in funding for military construction and an amendment to H.R. 3908 to increase the Department of Defense’s appropriation by $4 billion and included $750 million for health care.

In defense of debates

After the forum, Udall campaign spokesperson Tara Trujillo said defense probably would be a topic at one of the dozen debates scheduled around the state prior to the Nov. 4 election. Udall won’t have time to debate Schaffer in Colorado Springs, Trujillo said, because he’ll be working in Washington and campaigning this fall.

“It’s strange that a 10-year congressman won’t debate. He’s turned down everything,” said Dick Wadhams, state GOP chair and Schaffer’s campaign manager. “We’re willing to have a debate at Colorado College, the most liberal campus in Colorado.”

Spinning a list of rejections, Wadhams said Udall nixed appearances with Schaffer on “Meet the Press,” “The Mike Rosen Show” on KOA, and “Caplis and Silverman” on KHOW.

Udall might have read recent posts on the Colorado Media Matters Web site, the online media watchdog group, which criticized the Denver radio show hosts for allowing guests to misrepresent Udall’s energy positions and for being too cozy with Schaffer. Caplis even contributed $4,600 to Schaffer’s campaign.

However, Colorado College is indeed a liberal oasis in the conservative bastion of Colorado Springs.