McMahon spurns JFK’s nephew over tax-cut ad

Linda McMahon’s U.S. Senate campaign Wednesday refused a request by Ted Kennedy Jr. to stop using 47-year-old footage of John F. Kennedy in a web ad that the late president’s nephew says is “dishonest.”

Rather than remove the ad, the McMahon campaign may give it wider exposure.

“It’s on YouTube now. We may well put it in TV” advertising, said Ed Patru, the communication director for McMahon, a Republican trying to succeed a close friend of the Kennedys, retiring Democrat Christopher J. Dodd.

Kennedy, the son of Sen. Ted Kennedy and the nephew of the assassinated president, said McMahon took comments his uncle made supporting across-the-board tax cuts to avoid a recession in 1963 out of context.

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“Your ad is dishonest, because it distorts the legacy of President Kennedy in order to mislead voters into thinking that President Kennedy would support your position on tax policy,” Kennedy says in a letter to McMahon.

The letter is the second time in recent months that Kennedy, a Democrat who lives in Branford and has been urged to consider seeking office in Connecticut, has involved himself in a statewide campaign.

He recorded a television commercial in the summer for Ned Lamont, who lost the Democratic primary for governor. After largely living out of the public eye, Kennedy’s profile grew after he delivered a eulogy at his father’s televised funeral a year ago.

McMahon’s web ad features JFK talking about the wisdom of a tax cut, an issue that divides McMahon and the Democratic nominee, Richard Blumenthal. It carries the message, “A good idea then and now.”

Blumenthal favors extending the Bush-era tax cuts for taxpayers who jointly earn less than $250,000. He says that the government cannot afford to extend the cuts for wealthier taxpayers, given the size of the federal deficit.

McMahon wants to extend the cuts for all taxpayers, and she says she would back the Senate GOP leadership’s plan to block an extension if it only would benefit middle-class taxpayers.

Kennedy says in his letter to McMahon that his uncle was describing a far different situation, when he spoke in favor of tax cuts.

In 1963 the nation had nearly no deficit and the top tax rate was 91 percent on incomes over $400,000. Today, the deficit is $1.5 trillion and the top tax rate is 35 percent.

He also said his uncle advocated for tax cuts to help the middle class, while McMahon is willing to harm them with her position.

“By refusing to extend tax cuts to middle class families until the wealthiest Americans get tax cuts, you endorse the policies of President George W. Bush, not the legacy of President Kennedy,” he wrote.

Patru said a central point of Kennedy’s speech remains relevant: High taxes reduce financial incentives for businesses and investors.

“That is true today as it was 47 years ago,” Patru said. “The principle hasn’t changed.”