This is the first in KUAR's series of interviews with each of the three candidates in the contested Republican 2nd Congressional District Primary comprised of Conway, Faulkner, Perry, Pulaski, Saline, Van Buren, and White counties.
Kauffman: Hello, I’m Jacob Kauffman with KUAR News. I’m joined by State Representative, political science professor and 2nd Congressional District hopeful Ann Clemmer. Thanks for joining me.
Clemmer: Thank you for having me.
Kauffman: Most pundits and economists agree the economy is slowly, but regularly growing. A study this month from the London School of Economics shows that since the 1960s the richest one-thousandth of a percent of US households has doubled their share of the national wealth from 10 to 20 percent. Is the increasing concentration of wealth to the few a problem or a sign of a healthy economy?
Clemmer: Well, we don’t want a lot of government interference in the economy so if the wealthiest are becoming wealthy without government aid then I don’t see that much of a problem but if our policies are so skewed as to either exempt them from maybe, a due share of taxes, to the expense of the middle class, I don’t think you penalize success, right. But, we clearly don’t want to set, we don’t want to be subsidizing the top, we don’t want subsidies that create preferred classes of people in this country.
Kauffman: Is it a problem to you or something you’d try to address through legislation that even though profits are rising for some businesses, clearly not for all, that the share doesn’t seem to be going down to the workers.
Clemmer: The reason businesses make profit is because they have everything on the line. They’re the one’s risking everything. The people that I know that have businesses they have their homes on the line, they have everything on the line. If something goes bad, they deserve, people who take risks deserve to be rewarded for that risk. They again have property and the workers have the investment of time.
Kauffman: Many Arkansans are noticing an influx of out of state money and campaign ads not coming directly from campaigns. How would you address growing discontent with campaign finance laws?
Clemmer: It seems that the campaign finance laws have really just been the formula for people to find loopholes. When you stop allowing corporate gifts then PACs are formed so that the corporations can form a PAC so that the PAC can give money. So, a lot of people believe, and I might be in one of those camps, that you just have full disclosure and you took away some of the laws that are becoming almost like tax law, very complicated.
Kauffman: The oil spill in Mayflower has some Arkansans re-assessing their views of the safety practices of that industry. Would you pursue regulations moving pipelines away from sensitive areas like watersheds?
Clemmer: I would want to study that issue before I issued a lot of proclamations. We obviously have to have energy, we have to a way of transporting resource through the country but clearly we want to be protective of our water sources. That’s what we depend on we have to have clean water.
Kauffman: There are seemingly endless hotspots and trouble areas internationally that the US wants to help shape. What are your thoughts on the crisis in Ukraine and when is using force abroad a sound strategy?
Clemmer: First of all I think one of the reasons we’re having a problem in Ukraine is because President Obama has pursued more of a kumbaya foreign policy as opposed to presenting a very strong US presence. I understand his philosophy but it has not been one that has caused Vladimir Putin to be afraid of what we might do. I think that we’ve got to reassert our strength in the world, our willingness to stand by our allies. As far as using force I know our military is already spread very thin. I have a daughter wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force right now but she didn’t sign on the line not to participate if our nation needs her and she like most veterans and military serviceman are ready to be deployed in our nation’s defense if necessary.
Kauffman: The Obama administration has continued his predecessor’s use of drones in country’s we are not at war with and do not have troops in. Some argue their use, while helpful in killing dangerous extremists, ends up causing more harm than good, by creating more anti-US sentiment among non-actors in these conflicts. As a congressman how would you want the drone program used?
Clemmer: Anytime you’re using military tools whether it’s our troops or our equipment you want to be careful in how they’re being used. Obviously, using a drone is probably preferable to manned aircraft but again we want to be very cautious in anything we would do that would cause a situation to be inflamed further.
Kauffman: What are your thoughts on the NSA’s collection of at least some telephone and e-mail data from nearly every American? Would you keep in place current domestic surveillance practices?
Clemmer: Again, I’m still a candidate and I know that when you get elected you have access to more, you have a higher security clearance. I would want to study that. Obviously random American citizens don’t need to be surveilled, people who are potential threats perhaps need to be. I want to make sure that Congress is using adequate oversight to make sure our civil liberties are being protected.
Kauffman: Immigration legislation has largely stalled in Congress. What is your plan for addressing continued immigration as well as those currently here attending school or working?
Clemmer: Well, I think before we start looking at solutions for the people that are here we have stop the influx of, we have to control our borders, we have to stop the influx of illegal immigrants. Our nation, we are a nation of immigrants, and we’re a proud nation of immigrants but we’re supposed to have legal immigration and one of the fundamental jobs of any government is to control and protect their borders. With that in mind I thin we just have to get control of the borders and then we can start to look at what we do with the immigrants that are already here. If we don’t then we’re creating, if we create benefits to people here we’re creating more incentive to encourage more to come over illegally. So, I think before we can really address these we have to get control of our borders.
Kauffman: There is a wide consensus that Congress’s is unable to act on what many perceive as simple issues. Tell us about your leadership style. Are tactics like a government shutdown, and filibustering without having to actually speak something you’d support?
Clemmer: As a government teacher we talk about all these techniques and sometimes you criticize and you say this shouldn’t be and, and in the textbooks. But what you realize is that you can’t take things off the table. It’s kind of like saying no one likes war but you can’t have effective diplomacy unless there’s a threat of something greater. While no one wants to see a government shutdown I don’t think you take that off the table because that may be the only thing that brings the other side to a compromise.
Kauffman: We have to touch on the Affordable Care Act. You’ve been heavily involved and talked about one particular aspect of it, the Medicaid expansion, in state government. My understanding is you want to repeal the Affordable Care Act what would you replace that with?
Clemmer: We need to create, we should’ve created, some more conservative reforms before we did this massive overhaul of healthcare. Some of those reforms should have been the buying and selling of insurance across state lines. It should have allowed for small businesses to join into associations with others engaged in their same type of business, or even just small businesses based on size so that they could get a better group rate for insurance. We have not allowed those things in this country and those seem like common sense solutions. What we should have done is to try those things first and see if that didn’t alleviate some of the problem.
Kauffman: With those particular reforms in mind one that still stands out is the Medicaid expansion. Do you think that those reforms would make insurance cheap enough for those people 100 to 140 percent of the poverty line to then be able purchase insurance?
Clemmer: Well, I just think they should’ve, I don’t, you know, you’d have to see what kind of impact they’d have on rates. One thing we do know is Obamacare has caused the rates to skyrocket on everyone. So, we’ve got a situation where there are a lot of people in this country who are middle income and it’s taking their income to buy health insurance. In that regard, and we’ve seen people lose their insurance, this has not been an improvement from many Americans.
Kauffman: One thing you’ve been a particularly vocal champion of in the state legislature, and most recently I saw you a the 12 week abortion ban meeting talking about Judge Wright’s ruling, talk a little bit about that and your views on that issue.
Clemmer: Well, I just believe that it is the job of our government to protect life. You asked about leadership style, we didn’t ask for a 100 percent ban on abortion, which might be where my heart is, but when you’re a leader in government you look at what’s achievable. State law when that bill passed said that a 12 week baby, in 12 weeks of development, is a person under Arkansas law. So, my approach then was to say since we have said that it is a person why don’t we stop abortions at the time at which that baby becomes a person under Arkansas law. So you like at what you’d like to have and what’s achievable and part of the thing with abortion is that we know that our country has to evolve on that issue. Arkansas citizens are way ahead of where the government is because they are much more pro-life than our government policies. I think that bill reflected the views and values of Arkansans.
Kauffman: I’ve been speaking with Ann Clemmer who faces French Hill and Colonel Conrad Reynolds in the 2nd Congressional Republican Primary. Thanks for being here.
Clemmer: Thank you so much Jacob.
Kauffman: I’m Jacob Kauffman, KUAR News