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RV Industry Rebound Point of Hoosier Debate

The three candidates for Congress from Indiana’s 2nd U.S. House District split Wednesday night (Oct. 27) over whether the federal stimulus package helped or hurt the region’s economic recovery and on the need for campaign funding disclosure, the South Bend Tribune reported.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly argued that Elkhart County’s unemployment rate, which spiked to 18.9% in March 2009, dropped at least in part because of stimulus money. The county known for making recreational vehicles now has a 13% jobless rate. He said the stimulus aided other counties, cities and companies in the district as well.

“That bill also helped to create additional auto jobs and manufacturing jobs throughout our entire region. What we were able to see was that firefighters in Kokomo were able to go back to work, policemen in South Bend were able to go back to work because of those funds,” he said.

Republican state Rep. Jackie Walorski disagreed, arguing that Indiana’s efforts to balance its books and keep corporate taxes low created an environment that helped companies and the economy. She said Indiana would be doing even better if not for the stimulus bill and other programs that she said are putting a drag on the economy. She compared Indiana’s economy with a race car that had a governor on it limiting how fast it can go.

“We need a difference in Congress to get that race car on the road,” she said.

Libertarian Mark Vogel argued the stimulus package was a mistake, saying the money went to “corrupt bankers and politically well-connected corporations.” He said statistics he’s seen show that it cost from $100,000 to $400,000 to create one job under the stimulus package.

“That’s not the way to create jobs,” he said.

They also disagreed on whether groups that run attack ads should have to disclose who is funding them. The responses were to a question about whether the U.S. Supreme Court throwing out parts of a 63-year-old law prohibiting corporations and unions from paying to air ads for or against political candidates was good or bad for democracy.

Donnelly said Americans have the right to know who is spending money trying to get candidates elected, saying that some of the money could be coming from people and corporations from other countries.

“The people here in northern Indiana have a right to know whose money it is,” he said. “So I would support changing that so there is full disclosure.”

Walorski said she found the question interesting, saying Donnelly began running negative ads in late July, saying he was the first congressman to do so this election year.

“I think if we’re going to talk about the issue of expenditures, one of the things we have to ensure is that the rules are the same for corporations and unions, and there wouldn’t be exceptions for ones that wouldn’t be with the other,” she said.

Vogel said he believes it would be proper for the groups to disclose who is funding them, but said it shouldn’t be mandated.

“I don’t think they have to tell the federal government or anybody else,” Vogel said.

Outside groups have spent heavily in the district, which historically has been a swing district.

The atmosphere at the debate was a stark contrast to a debate in Rochester two nights earlier, when a standing-room crowd of more than 600 people disrupted the event several times. The debate Wednesday was held in the studio of public television station WNIT in South Bend with about 75 audience members who stayed quiet until applauding politely at the end.

The election is on Tuesday (Nov. 2).

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