Clinton takes stump to the pump
Pays bill in push for moratorium on federal gas tax
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Jason Wilfing had a good excuse when he showed up late for work yesterday at a sheet metal plant - he was part of the stagecraft for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's latest promotion for a gas tax holiday.
Clinton met Wilfing and as part of the carefully orchestrated event, they drove to a service station where news cameras awaited and she picked up the $63 tab for little more than half a tank of gasoline ($3.76 per gallon) for a Ford F-250 pickup on loan from Wilfing's boss. (As the wife of a former president and a US senator with Secret Service protection, Clinton hasn't pumped her own gas in years.)
Later, at the sheet metal plant, she again called for a summer moratorium on the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal tax on gasoline, an idea first proposed by Republican John McCain but opposed by her Democratic rival, Barack Obama, who calls it a political gimmick that will provide only a free half-tank of gasoline to most Americans and no solution to long-term energy problems.
Clinton said she will sponsor legislation seeking a temporary tax on windfall profits by oil companies as a way to offset the resulting loss of up to $10 billion in revenue to the fund that pays for highway construction and repairs across the country. She said the suspension of the tax would provide some short-term relief, particularly to truckers and farmers, and she called for an investigation of the root causes of the skyrocketing fuel prices as part of a longer-term fix.
Clinton has seized on the gas tax issue in the final week before crucial primaries next Tuesday in Indiana and North Carolina as a way to separate herself from Obama and as a jumping off point "to go right at the oil companies."
But Federico Peña, a former energy secretary under Bill Clinton and now an Obama supporter, called the gas tax holiday "another example of Washington politics at its worst."
"The Clinton gas tax gimmick does little to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and will actually increase oil prices," he said in a statement issued yesterday by the Obama campaign. "It is the kind of pandering that insults people's intelligence."
Obama's campaign yesterday also launched a TV ad in Indiana and North Carolina to answer Clinton's ad accusing him of ignoring families getting gouged at the pump.
Obama's ad features his longer term proposals for increased fuel efficiency, clean energy, and middle-class tax cuts, and shows him calling the gas tax holiday a "quick fix" that makes no sense.
Also, most congressional leaders say the proposal is unlikely to pass.
Wilfing, 33, a father of three from Plymouth, is a member of the Sheet Metal Workers union, whose international came out early for Clinton. Wilfing's wife, Bobbie, met with Clinton and attended the news conference. The couple live on 10 acres and raise nine pigs and about 60 chickens.
Bobbie Wilfing, 34, said she and her husband were never interested in politics until they followed the 2000 Florida recount controversy that resulted in the election of George W. Bush. They registered to vote after that.
Of suddenly playing a bit part with her husband in a hotly contested fight for the Democratic nomination, Bobbie Wilfing said, "I'm a little nervous, but it's very exciting and it's an opportunity I would never have had otherwise."