This is the second 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.
Click here for the first interview with Ann Clemmer.
Kauffman: Hello, I’m Jacob Kauffman with KUAR News. I’m joined by the founder and chairman of Delta Trust and Bank and Republican 2nd Congressional District hopeful French Hill. Thanks for joining me.
Hill: It’s a pleasure thanks 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?
Hill: Good question, what we need to do is get our economy growing again and let everybody benefit. When we look at the last five years of very slow, laborious recovery from the recession of ’08-’09 we’re back almost up to the 115, 116 million people that were working in the summer of ’08 but where we’re not is in the construction area and in the manufacturing area. That’s where a lot of middle income and households have a lot of employment, a lot of wealth creation, a lot of opportunity. I would hope that we would take policies at the federal level to help re-shore jobs and get manufacturing jobs and get them back to the US. I think that’s a core strategy to rebuilding that broad share of national wealth.
Kauffman: What would you say touching on that a little bite more that those sectors aside, those are high paying jobs typically, with the existing growth that we have do you feel that’s being shared in a fair way?
Hill: Well, I think what we should focus on is do we have growth and do we have opportunity. What we want is a fair opportunity for all Americans to get educated and to pursue happiness. We want them out pursuing what they want to do in their careers. The key is preserving opportunities for all families to advance personal income.
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?
Hill: Yeah, I think a lot of people are frustrated by campaign finance because it pours into their living rooms and in their ears on radio. You know, the Supreme Court has told us that finance, campaign finance, is protected speech. For me it’s about transparency. I think voters ought to know who’s behind the groups, kind of what their mission is, so that they can make up their own mind about what those entities are advocating when they’re promoting a particular candidate or maybe an issue as opposed to a particular candidate.
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?
Hill: Yeah, good question, certainly one that’s important to everybody in the second district because people I think were shocked by the spill at Mayflower and maybe woke up that we have really hundreds of thousands of miles of pipeline that crisscross the US. If you look at a map it’s almost solid color there are so many pipelines. The first thing I’d say is pipelines are the safest way to move natural gas and fossil fuels, safer than rail, certainly safer than truck, my goodness. We ought to say number one that we believe pipelines are the safest way to transport those substances. Second though, when you pass through a critical watershed what are the pipeline operators doing about monitoring the age of their pipeline using technology? I would argue not so much for new regulations but for the pipeline authorities to make sure that companies are pursuing best practices on technology and monitoring. Maybe if a pipeline’s over a certain age maybe it gets higher monitoring or maybe they use some technological device that would make it safer and give the communities around those watersheds some comfort because there are as I say hundreds of thousands of miles of them and we’ve got to be sensitive that it’s not just one place in the country affected.
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?
Hill: Well, the Ukrainian situation is I think been brought about by Russia’s desire to really project its homeland. Russia has not got a good economy, they are concerned about as they look back over 20 years about the progress of the West, and they seem still stuck in stagnation with a commodity driven economy. I really think that’s why they’re acting so provocatively. We saw in Georgia during the Bush administration, now in Crimea and in the Ukraine during the Obama administration. What the US position should be in my judgment is using NATO we should have I think maintained our defense posture by having our missile defense system in Poland and eastern Europe. I think that would’ve been a right step that was taken. I think that we should work with NATO to make sure that Russia knows we’re going to support our central and eastern European allies.
Kauffman: The Obama administration has continued his predecessor’s use of drones in countries 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. As a congressman how would you want the drone program used?
Hill: Well, I think the military use of drone technology is like any other use of military force. It ought to be pursuant to a strategy that’s overseen by the president as commander and chief and reviewed on a regular basis by Congress through their oversight. I wouldn’t want to, not having full knowledge, preempt a decision by our president on how the drones should be used but they ought to be part of a strategy and be routinely a part of the congressional oversight process.
Kauffman: Without going too deep into that because you don’t have the information the president would have, I understand that, is there anything you find immediately objectionable or are especially concerned about with that program.
Hill: If you think about the use of military drone technology as any other use of US military. So, philosophically put a pilot in that vehicle or make it a group of ground forces versus a drone. We shouldn’t look at a drone as anything else but the use of US military force. It ought to be looked at; it shouldn’t be created in another category. That’s what I’m concerned about. I don’t think we should treat it like well, it’s just this other thing it’s a robot, it’s not human intervention. That’s why I think we should make clear decisions pursuant to a strategy that those are to protect the vital interests of the United States and that we have a right approach for it. Just like we would a troop or to insert an aircraft, a manned aircraft. Don’t think it’s a third way. It’s part of that force structure.
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?
Hill: Americans are owed a 4th Amendment protection of privacy in their papers. I think this is really a concern to a lot of people because it is a complex topic. People don’t really understand it and it’s a real topic out in the blogosphere, you know. I’d make the following comment. Number one we do have and we ask our federal government to protect us from a threat to the homeland and we want them to use overt and covert measures to do that. But when it comes to surveillance and surveillance that touches the lives of Americans we got a foreign intelligence review court in the judiciary appointed through the federal judiciary to monitor that whole issue of getting an appropriate warrant. I believe that shouldn’t be any different than getting a warrant to go in a criminal matter here that’s just one we’re used to in the search process. I think Congress is owed an oversight right to make sure that our 4th Amendment rights to privacy are fully protected under the NSA program and the federal judiciary has a major obligation to make sure it’s done absolutely in accordance with the Constitution.
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?
Hill: Immigrantion reform was frustrated during the Obama administration as you know, as we lived through it, and the Bush administration. Both presidents had tried to come up with a comprehensive approach to immigration reform and both so far have failed. The congress cannot seem to come together on a strategy that can get a bill passed. The parameters I think of getting a bill passed are first of all, border security, which has become kind of a talking point I think for everybody but it’s still a fact. I think people are asking is the border secure or not? That’s just a fundamental question American voters have. Secondly, we would like to have a lot of pro-immigration where we get official ways to get more people into the US that want to work, study, start businesses, get a PhD, and stay and become a key engineer. Or migrant laborers who want to come and go, they don’t want to move to the US they just want to come here work and go back to their families and repatriate their hard earnings. All those things are sort of frustrated by what to do about the people who are here in the country illegally. I don’t have the magic answer to that. If I’m elected to congress and represent the 2nd district I’ll listen to people here, I’ll listen to my colleagues, and try to be a constructive voice so we can move on with this issue. But I’m not sure, Jacob, we’re going to get that done until we get a new president. I’m not optimistic right now.
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?
Hill: Jack Kennedy in his inaugural speech said civility is not an indication of weakness. I do think of myself as a civil person so my work style is very much about civility. But I also believe that facts can rule out. I think congress has to work together on these topics. I’ve always said if we narrow things that we can work through both Democrats and Republicans can get things done. It’s when we tackle these big comprehensive challenges that the chain gets around the axle and we bog down. But we can get things for the economy, for jobs, for economic growth. I think that both sides can agree on a more narrow approach and I’m committed to doing that.
Kauffman: We have to touch on the Affordable Care Act a little bit. Let me know your position on that and if you do want to repeal parts of it what would you replace it with?
Hill: Yeah, good. I believe that the Affordable Care Act, as it’s known, Obamacare, was supposed to increase access to people that didn’t have insurance and increase affordability. I don’t give it a passing grade in those two topics. That’s the reason why I’ve said I would like to repeal and replace it with something that preserves more personal choice and yet creates, goes back, to an approach where the states have the pre-existing conditions pools, makes them more robust for anybody that has a pre-existing condition. I don’t believe the industry, or families, or anybody has a problem with young adults being on their parents plans until they’re 26 because that’s a very affordable thing. But what I object to is the mandates, the federal mandates for companies and people and the fact that so many people, millions of people, were thrown off their care by this so that the President violated his commitment that if had your plan, you liked it, you could keep it. Those are the areas where I’d want to work to repeal and replace Obamacare that really does focus on more access for people that need it but gets back to that affordability thing.
Kauffman: One aspect of the Affordable Care Act that’s certainly been a hot button issue in state politics and has some logical extension to your congressional office – Medicaid expansion. In your replacement solution would there be any similar solution for those people 100 to a 140 percent of the poverty line?
Hill: Well, all states have the right to do Medicaid expansion and they always have had it. They can make it as robust as they want, like Oregon for example, that fully expanded Medicaid across the whole state to a very high percentage of the population but their costs did not drop, their ER rates or their emergency room visits are even higher. Even in Oregon they’re second guessing themselves and they had the most expanded Medicaid. So there I believe states should experiment. I’m fine with state experimentation in Medicaid work but the one size fits all sort of, the one size fits all federally mandated approach is something I remain opposed to.
Kauffman: I’ve been speaking with French Hill, who faces Ann Clemmer and Colonel Conrad Reynolds in the 2nd Congressional Republican Primary. Thanks for being here.
Hill: Thank you for your time.
Kauffman: I’m Jacob Kauffman, KUAR New