How do you spell "sidesplitting chutzpah"? In New York's 22nd congressional district, it's spelled: R-I-C-H-A-R-D H-A-N-N-A. He's the liberal GOP incumbent trying to cling to public office by smearing the Marine mom, small-business owner, lawyer and conservative state assemblywoman poised to take his seat next week.
Claudia Tenney is as rock-solid of a Republican as they come: pro-life, pro-limited government, pro-Second Amendment, pro-entrepreneur, pro-American worker. As one of New York's top conservative legislators, Tenney has been unafraid to challenge the powers that be in both political parties. As an attorney, she has fought valiantly against cronyism and corruption. She has opposed the New York Democratic machine on everything from in-state tuition discounts for illegal aliens to taxpayer slush funds to dirty casino-government deals.
Tenney is the insurgent challenger in the June 24 primary to unseat Hanna, who is the third most liberal GOP member of the House. Hanna is also a member of the left-wing "Republican Main Street Partnership" — the pro-bailout, pro-debt, pro-amnesty, anti-drilling group infested with lobbyists and fronted by Beltway barnacle turned Tea Party-bashing lobbyist Steve LaTourette.
Because no Democrat is running for the seat, the NY-22 primary is effectively a general race. It's a ripe electoral opportunity for the right. Tenney has grassroots support from New York tea party activists, the New York State Conservative Party, the New York State Right-to-Life Committee, former GOP Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, as well as the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms PAC and the conservative women's political action committee ShePAC.
Hanna, by contrast, has the backing of deep-pocketed D.C. special interests that have thrown nearly $1.5 million into the race. The "American Unity" super PAC, funded by billionaire gay marriage supporter Paul Singer, has kicked in more than a half-million dollars on gay marriage crusader Hanna's behalf. The group also has shoveled $125,000 to Karl Rove's American Crossroads, whose operatives are waging war against conservative tea party primary challengers across the country. The "American Unity" super PAC's ads absurdly slam Tenney as "not a conservative" and fudge the facts to falsely accuse her of supporting tax hikes.
Another blatant lie: tying Tenney to Democratic corruptocrat Sheldon Silver, whom Tenney was the first state legislator to call on to resign after his tax-subsidized payoffs to cover up sexual harassment claims were exposed.
A similar attack campaign by something called the "Patriot Prosperity PAC" parroted the patently false claims that Tenney supports tax hikes and called her "out of touch."
But it's liberal incumbent Hanna and his D.C. backers who are the elitists out of touch not only with GOP voters, but also with mainstream Americans. Hanna is a soft-on-borders, U.S. Chamber of Commerce-supported pol pushing amnesty and massive increases in foreign tech visas.
Tenney, by contrast, opposes amnesty, expansions of illegal alien benefits, and the cheap-labor tech visa racket. "Millions of Americans are out of work, and politicians in Washington, like my opponent, want to bring in millions more to take high-paying, high-tech jobs we desperately need here and for our American citizens," Tenney says. "We can and will reform our system without rewarding law-breaking, encouraging more illegal immigration, or displacing hardworking Americans from jobs."
Tenney has a proven record of defying special interests on both sides of the aisle. Among her most bitter opponents: gaming operative Ray Halbritter, most notorious nationally for his political grandstanding against the Washington Redskins over their name.
Tenney has called out Halbritter's dubious claims of being an Oneida Indian and repeatedly blasted his sweetheart casino deal with the Cuomo dynasty. The deal is a federally approved land-trust swap that leaves local and state taxpayers out of $800 million in back taxes owed by the Oneida Indian Nation. Tenney has provided pro bono representation to an Oneida Indian challenging the land grab. The tribal leadership (read: Halbritter) endorsed Hanna and has pitched in $100,000 to fund the "Patriot Prosperity" PAC attack ads against Tenney. Fun fact: Halbritter's former chief of staff and top lobbyist crony Niels Holch was also Mitch McConnell's former chief of staff.
"I've taken risks, and I'm taking the hits," she told me in a phone interview on Thursday. "The dirty money is everywhere." Steel-spined and strong-willed, Claudia Tenney sticks to her guns and her principles. She doesn't back away from a fight. She's exactly what Washington needs more of — and why Washington's Big Money bosses are so desperate to stop her.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is [email protected]