Here we go again.
The first round of attack ads in the 2010 midterm elections was announced this week by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Its new radio spots accuse 28 Republican House members variously of voting against tax breaks for working people, voting against money for schools, voting against creating jobs and voting against health insurance coverage for millions of children.
The ads aren't exactly false, but they don't tell the whole story. Popular programs that the GOP members opposed actually were small parts of a huge package of spending and tax-cut measures that Republicans criticized as poorly designed and wasteful. And some of the ads attack Republicans for supporting measures, such as last year's financial rescue package, that Democrats also supported in even greater numbers.
The DCCC announced a radio ad campaign beginning this week attacking 28 Republican members of the House of Representatives for what it called "out of step priorities." The ads are true as far as they go, but they don't tell the whole story. In some cases they attack the GOP members for supporting bills that Democrats also supported by wide margins.
A Republican Against Tax Cuts?
One ad says that GOP Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia "voted to bail out big banks, but opposed tax breaks for 95 percent of Americans." That's true, but misleading. The ad leaves out important information.
Cantor did vote to bail out big banks – and medium-size banks as well – when he supported the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. But so did most Democrats. The bill passed the House in October 2008 with Democrats supporting it by a wide margin (172 - 63), while Cantor was one of the minority of Republicans who supported it (91 - 108). The bill established a $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which has been used to inject capital in banks both large, and not so large.
Furthermore, Cantor voted against "tax breaks for ... workers" only as part of a massive stimulus bill that also contained a host of other provisions. He voted against H.R. 1, which actually contained far more in spending increases than it did in tax cuts. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it would have resulted in a total of $637.2 billion in increased federal outlays over the next 10 years and $182.3 billion in reduced taxes. Cantor and all other Republican House members opposed it, as did 11 Democrats. Whether Cantor should or shouldn't have voted for the bill, it's misleading to describe his vote simply as opposing tax cuts.
Versions of this ad also are running in the districts of Republican Reps. Pete Sessions of Texas, Henry Brown of South Carolina, Ken Calvert and Dan Lungren of California, and Lee Terry of Nebraska.
Think of the Children!
Another ad says that Republican Rep. Thad McCotter of Michigan "opposed over $526 million to modernize crumbling Michigan schools, but supported building new schools in Iraq." Again, there is more to the story than the DCCC is telling.
There was no single measure to simply add funding to Michigan schools, nor was there one to simply fund Iraqi schools. The "new schools in Iraq" funding came from an emergency supplemental appropriations measure in March 2005 that also included war-fighting funds for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, and relief funds to aid victims of the tsunami and earthquakes of December 2004 and March 2005, among other things. For Democrats to use this vote to criticize a Republican's priorities is, to be charitable, inconsistent. Democrats supported it 162 - 39, while Republicans voted for it 226 - 3.
As for voting against "$526 million to modernize crumbling Michigan schools," that's based on a state-by-state analysis of the stimulus bill by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. There's little question that Michigan would have received some money. But even if the $526 million figure turned out to be accurate, it would amount to a small fraction of the bill's total – 0.06 percent, or about six cents of every $100. McCotter said he opposed the $819.5 billion package because he thinks it's too large.
Similar ads are running in the districts of Republican Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Bill Young of Florida, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Elton Gallegy of California, Tom Latham of Iowa, Donald Manzullo of Illinois, Dave Reichert of Washington, James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, and Don Young of Alaska.
Another DCCC ad claims that GOP Rep. Christopher Lee "voted against economic recovery to immediately create and save over 390,000 New York jobs."
There was of course no House vote on whether or not to create 390,000 jobs in Lee's home state; the bill refers to his vote against the stimulus bill. However, there is some support for the 390,000 figure: economist Mark Zandi's estimate of the bill's effect in the state. But other economists have different opinions. As we explain on the FactCheck Wire, economic experts have trouble gauging how spending and tax cuts would really work because history has given them very little data about global financial crises of the present magnitude.
But even if Zandi's 390,000 estimate is correct, the ad is misleading when it says that the saving or creation of the jobs would happen "immediately." In fact, that's the number Zandi projects for the last three months of 2010, well over a year and a half from now.
Similar ads are running against GOP Reps. Joseph Cao, John Fleming and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Brian Bilbray of California, Brett Guthrie of Kentucky, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, and Tom Rooney of Florida.
DCCC Radio Ad: "Health Care"
Narrator: Did you know Congressman Ken Calvert gets health care at taxpayers' expense, but Calvert voted against health care for 11 million uninsured children? Times are tough, tell Ken Calvert to put families first.
The DCCC's fourth radio ad attacks three House Republicans for voting "against health care for 11 million uninsured children" while getting health care for themselves "at taxpayers' expense."
That's a twisted version of the truth. What the three targeted members voted against was expanded funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). It passed and was signed into law Feb. 4.
The 11 million figure is misleading. Actually, CBO estimates that the measure would cover an additional 4.1 million uninsured children by the year 2013.
This ad would have listeners believe that the GOP members also voted to take away SCHIP coverage for the 7 million children who have it now.
Not mentioned in the ad is that the funding increase is financed by a 62-cent increase in the federal excise tax on each pack of cigarettes, putting the total tax at $1.01 per pack. The CBO estimates that the new law will create $73 billion in added federal outlays over the next 10 years.
Versions of this ad are running against GOP Reps. Ken Calvert of California, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri.