Rep. Robin Hayes of Concord, considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress, began trying to chip away at his Democratic opponent's everyman image with a TV ad that accuses the candidate of cheating his own campaign workers.
Hayes beat an underfunded Larry Kissell by only 330 votes in the 2006 campaign, and this fall's rematch in the 8th Congressional District is one of the most watched races in the nation.
Kissell, who earns $32,000 as a schoolteacher in Biscoe, got so close in 2006 in part by casting himself as being more in touch with the voters than Hayes, a multimillionaire textile heir.
But Hayes' campaign ad that began airing Tuesday on cable stations in Charlotte and Fayetteville, reveals that Kissell hasn't paid payroll taxes for his campaign workers.
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The ad accuses Kissell of manipulating his campaign payroll “to save himself a buck.”
Kissell's campaign acknowledged that so far in this campaign, all of its employees have been treated as independent contractors who pay their own taxes, although field workers he hired this month would be paid as full-time employees and their taxes would be paid by the campaign. In the 2006 campaign, resources were so scarce that Kissell never was able to hire permanent employees and everyone who worked for him was on a contract basis, said his spokesman Thomas Thacker.
“I am completely satisfied with the fee I'm paid, and I'm completely satisfied shopping for health care in the private sector, and I thought that was something that Republicans thought was a good thing,” said Thacker, who says the relationship frees him to pursue other clients.
“A lot of people in this district don't have jobs at all. The district has seen 60,000 jobs lost since Hayes was elected. That's who's gotten cheated.”
Election law doesn't specifically address what conditions would make a campaign worker a full-time employee, so as employers, the candidates need to rely on federal and state labor laws that define when someone is an employee for purposes of paying Social Security, unemployment benefits and other taxes.
While most campaigns, including Hayes, do hire independent consultants for media buys and other jobs, many of them also have employees for whom they pay payroll taxes.
“This is the guy who is claiming to be the candidate of the workers, who is supposed to be representing worker rights, yet look at how he treats his workers,” said Hayes' campaign manager Steve Quain. “It's the height of hypocrisy.”