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Congressional candidates exchange barbs : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Congressional candidates exchange barbs
Foster hits Hultgren on TARP funds; Hultgren explains Social Security stance

by Tony Scott


The two major party candidates for the 14th Congressional seat spent the past week criticizing each other for their stances on taxes and other issues.

Incumbent Rep. Bill Foster, D-Batavia, is facing a challenge by State Senator Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield Township, for the U.S. House seat. The 14th District includes Kendall County.

Most recently, Hultgren's campaign responded to a column in Crain's Chicago Business published Tuesday that detailed Hultgren's employer's apparent acceptance of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds from the federal government, commonly referred to by critics as "bail-out" money.

Hultgren is listed as vice president of sales and marketing for Chicago-based Performance Trust Investment Advisors on the company's web site. One of the company's funds that it markets is the Performance Trust TALF Fund Ltd. The fund invested in securities connected with the Federal Reserve's Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) program.

According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the fund is based at an address in Grand Cayman.

In a 2008 press release that detailed the program, the Federal Reserve claimed that the TALF would "help market participants meet the credit needs of households and small businesses by supporting the issuance of asset-backed securities (ABS) collateralized by student loans, auto loans, credit card loans, and loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration."

The Federal Reserve further stated, "The U.S. Treasury Department--under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008--will provide $20 billion of credit protection to the FRBNY (Federal Reserve Bank of New York) in connection with the TALF."

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, Foster said Hultgren was a "salesman for toxic assets," selling "sliced and diced" mortgage products, and that those "toxic assets were at the root of the economic collapse."

However, Gill Stevens, spokesman for Hultgren's campaign, said Hultgren was not involved in that particular fund.

"Unlike Bill Foster and Nancy Pelosi, Randy Hultgren was opposed to bail-outs yesterday, he opposes them today, and he will oppose them in Congress," Stevens said. "He has never sold, marketed or benefited from any TARP or TALF-related funds."

Hultgren has criticized TARP in the past, particularly during an interview with the conservative blog Illinois Review in December of 2009.

"It's baffling to me how the Democrats can think of raising taxes and spending another trillion dollars is actually saving money," he said. "It isn't. It's more bureaucracy and waste. We've seen how those play out. Cash for clunkers, the failure of that. TARP, with over what, 20 indictments that are out there because of fraudulent use of TARP money. We see when bureaucracy and big government come in and try and address these issues, it fails. What we need to do is get back again to free-market. We need to empower consumers with good options."

Foster described Hultgren as his company's "top salesman."

"I can't imagine as vice president of marketing he wasn't aware... I would be surprised if he claimed he was unaware of this," he said.

Criticizes FairTax

The Foster campaign also criticized Hultgren for supporting the flat, consumption-based FairTax, which it described as a "radical new 23 percent tax on the middle class in a tough economy."

Foster's campaign stated that at a meeting in April with a township Republican organization in Kane County, Hultgren said he was "very open and would be supportive of a FairTax."

A release by Foster's campaign quotes the web site as stating that the FairTax would "reduce the tax bills of individuals making over $200,000 and increase the tax bills of those making between $15,000 and $200,000, or roughly 80 percent of the American population."

The Foster campaign also released a television ad criticizing Hultgren's stance on the FairTax.

Hultgren's campaign via Stevens responded that Foster is "clearly desperate."

"Bill Foster is clearly desperate and is spending thousands of lobbyist and special interest dollars in a transparent attempt to distract voters from Randy Hultgren's record of fighting for lower taxes, as evidenced by his endorsement from the National Taxpayers Union," Stevens said. "It is odd that a liberal Democrat like Bill Foster brings up taxes when he wants to raise them on working families and small businesses. I guess Foster figures it's better to try to hoodwink voters rather than talking about his own record of support for the Foster-Pelosi government takeover of health care, Wall Street bailouts and record-breaking budget deficits."

Battle over Social Security

The two campaigns have also recently sparred on whether Hultgren has taken the stance in favor of privatizing Social Security. The Foster campaign pointed to the December 2009 interview with the Illinois Review as proof that Hultgren has favored privatization.

For his part, Hultgren has recently said he is not in favor of privatizing the program.

In the interview, Hultgren hints at having private options in the future for Social Security recipients. However, he also said the government needs to "abide by the agreements that we've made to retirees."

"We made that commitment to those people who are retired and we need to follow through on that, but for younger people who are already questioning and realizing that Social Security most likely isn't going to be there we need to follow that up with training them to be prepared for retirement," Hultgren said.

"To take individual responsibility and to start preparation for that, and I think make some changes in Social Security law for young people to maybe have a higher retirement age. Certainly the life expectancy wasn't nearly as high as it is now as it was when Social Security was instituted back 60-70 years ago, so we need to update that for younger workers who have a higher age level when they would have access to Social Security. I think we need to have some other private options for people, younger workers, to be able to invest for their retirement."

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