Himes Campaign: Shays Makes False Claims in Mailer

The Himes campaign sent out a release claiming that Rep. Chris Shays was being a little less than truthful in a mailer the Shays campaign sent out, which claimed Shays had never voted to privatize social security. Here’s the mailer (image courtesy of the Himes campaign–click to expand).


The Himes campaign had this to say about the mailer:

“Chris Shays may change his tactics, but he cannot change his record,” said Michael Sachse, spokesman for the Himes campaign. “Chris Shays has co-sponsored legislation to privatize Social Security, and he has spoken out in favor of privatization repeatedly. It is sad that at what may be the end of his political career, Chris Shays is deceiving voters about his record.”

They cite as evidence this bill from the 1999-2000 session of Congress, which would have provided for private accounts as part of Social Security. Shays was a cosponsor of the bill. They also point to an interview done this year by Shays in which he said, “I really do believe in private savings accounts. I promoted taking one third of Social Security and making it into a private savings account, and having two-thirds remain in social security.” (Chris Shays, 7/11/08, “Where We Live” on WNPR)

So is the Himes campaign right that Shays is distorting his record? Or is the mailer accurate?

Both, sort of. The mailer says that Shays has never voted to privatize Social Security, and that he never will. The first part is accurate. The bill in 2000 never came to a vote, and Shays has never actually voted for privatization.

But whether he’d never vote for such a bill is another matter.

Shays was an early supporter of private accounts. In 1996, this appeared in a Courant article:

“We’re looking to privatize Social Security and to allow people to invest their own money, but require they have to put money aside,” he said at a breakfast meeting with reporters.

The plan Shays is considering would allow people up to age 30 to leave Social Security but would also require them to put an unspecified amount into private savings accounts. (MacDonald)

In September of this year, Shays’s campaign manager had this to say about Shays and social security:

Michael Sohn, campaign manager for Shays, disputed Hime’s [sic] remarks saying the congressman is not for privatizing Social Security.

“Chis favors instituting a system of generational fairness that would be two-fold,” said Sohn. “It would allow the current generation receiving benefits to continue to receive those benefits and it would give future generations a viable solution to fit their needs.” (Wright)

Shays seems, then, to favor keeping things as they are for seniors who are receiving social security benefits. Okay. But he has favored and appears to continue to favor some kind of alternative for younger generations, and in the past he has been clear that he thinks private accounts of some sort would be a good idea.

So is Shays being misleading here? Is he, as the Himes campaign claims, “deceiving voters about his record”? A little. The mailer itself is technically correct in that Shays has not, in fact, voted to privatize social security–and supports keeping the current system in place for today’s seniors. However, Shays has in the past expressed support for voluntary private accounts, and has cosponsored legislation to that end.

Himes does not favor private accounts.


JOHN A. MacDONALD, Courant Staff Writer. “SHAYS WORKING ON PLAN FOR SOCIAL SECURITY ALTERNATIVE :[STATEWIDE Edition]. ” Hartford Courant [Hartford, Conn.] 27 Nov. 1996, p.A2.

Wright, Chase. “Himes speaks out on Social Security, Shays campaign bites back.” Stamford Times 9 September, 2008.


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