Did Clinton Darken Obama’s Skin?

March 6, 2008

From Factcheck.org

Some Obama backers cry “racism.” We find the accusation to be

Obama supporters on the Internet are agitated over the apparent darkening of Obama’s image in a Clinton attack ad.

Our video team took a look. Our conclusions:

  • The Obama frames from the ad do appear darker than other video of Obama from the same event.

  • However, the YouTube copy of the ad, on which the bloggers base their conclusions, is darker overall than other copies of the ad.  We obtained a digital recording of the ad as it actually appeared on a Texas TV station, and it is lighter.

  • Furthermore, our analysis of the Obama frames, using Photoshop, shows a fairly uniform darkening of the entire image including the backdrop. It is not just Obama’s skin color that’s affected.

  • Also, nearly all the images in the ad are dark, including those of Hillary Clinton. And dark images are a common technique used in attack ads.

Others will speculate about the Clinton campaign’s intentions and motives, as they already have. But without further evidence to the contrary, we see no reason to conclude that this is anything more than a standard attempt to make an attack ad appear sinister, rather than a special effort to exploit racial bias as some Obama supporters are saying.


A March 3 post by an Obama supporter on the liberal blog site Daily Kos framed the question starkly in its headline: “Is the Clinton Campaign Now Engaged in Intentional Race-Baiting?” A March 4 follow-up by another blogger on AMERICAblog.com asked, “Why is Obama’s skin blacker than normal in Hillary’s new attack ad?.” The blogger concluded that the image had been intentionally darkened, going on to charge that Clinton is “using racism to win.” Both of these posts have attracted hundreds of comments and have been re-posted on other widely-read Web sites.

The ad they refer to is “True,” a 30-second spot that the Clinton campaign started running in Texas on March 3. The campaign also posted it on its YouTube site that day. The ad includes a clip of Obama from the Feb. 27 debate in Cleveland. We noticed nothing amiss about this ad when we first saw it, but in light of the widespread accusations from Obama supporters, we’ve taken a closer look.

The first thing to note is that the version of the Clinton ad that appears on YouTube, which prompted comments on the blogs, is darker overall than other copies of the ad that appear elsewhere.

YouTube Version Is Unusually Dark

Here’s one of the frames from the YouTube version:


Here’s nearly the same frame as posted on Clinton’s Web site, which to our eye is noticeably lighter:


And here’s a high-quality version recorded by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a unit of TNS Media Intelligence, as it appeared at 5:27 p.m. March 3 on station KCEN in Waco, Texas:

The CMAG version is lighter still. We’ve made no color corrections nor otherwise manipulated these images. We simply took freeze frames directly from each video in its original format.

Ad Versus Debate

All of that said, when we compared the video of Obama in the Clinton ad (any of the versions above) with the video of the debate as it appears on YouTube, there are pronounced differences in color.
Here’s the YouTube version of the debate clip:


However, Obama’s skin tone is somewhat darker in
MSNBC‘s streaming version of the debate on its Web site:

obama msnbc

Our conclusion: Had the bloggers compared the CMAG version of the ad to the MSNBC version of the debate, they would have a far less compelling case for intentional darkening in the Clinton ad. To our eye the Clinton ad has a noticeably less reddish hue, but whether it looks darker or not depends on which version of the ad is being compared to which version of the original debate footage.

Why the Differences?

Without access to the project files of the editor who produced this ad, we can’t measure precisely what color manipulations were performed. However, we can offer some observations based on our own experience, if you’ll bear with a brief interlude of techy nerd-speak.

Some of the differences may be due to video compression required by YouTube, which encodes video to Flash format and re-sizes it, using its own required parameters before posting. The Clinton camp may have had one color scheme in its original video and ended up with a slightly different one after YouTube’s processing.

In our experience posting videos to our Just the Facts feature, conversion to Flash format drives up contrast and reduces the mid-range color values that are frequently found in flesh tones and facial detail. We’ve noticed that Obama, and other candidates, appear drained of a bit of their color in some of our videos after they’ve been processed for posting.

Still, the Clinton ad makers may have darkened the Obama images intentionally, to some degree. When it comes to video editing, the possibilities are overwhelming. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their motives were racist. We note that the entire ad is cast in dark tones and even Hillary Clinton herself appears in shadows, as though she were working late into the night.


A Page from the Attack-Ad Playbook

A standard technique used in attack ads is to portray the opponent in black and white while showing the person being supported in glorious, flattering color. And attack ads often use dark images to convey a sinister tone to the message. As the University of Pennsylvania’s Kathleen Hall Jamieson (who is director of our parent organization) stated in her 1992 book Dirty Politics:

Dirty Politics (p. 51): Quick cuts, use of black and white, dark colors, shadowed lighting, stark contrasts, videotape, the voice of a seemingly ‘neutral’ announcer, and ominous music are the techniques associated with ‘oppositional’ production spots.

And in fact, when we compared the frames in the ad to frames from the debate video using the “eyedropper” tool in Photoshop image-processing software, we found that the frames in the Clinton ad are uniformly darker. We found no pronounced difference in the degree to which Obama’s skin, as opposed to his tie, his shirt, or the backdrop was darkened.

We’re not mind-readers, so we can’t say whether or not the makers of this ad intended to engage in “race-baiting” or were “using racism to win” as some Obama partisans are claiming. Based on evidence at hand, we find those claims to be unsubstantiated. And the many potential differences between source footage, encoding manipulations, and other variables only make it less likely that any such attempt could be proven.

A final note: The last time we became aware of any clear example of digital manipulation was two years ago, when the Republican National Committee posted a Web image of Howard Dean with a hint of a little Hitler mustache. And charges of foul play were confirmed when the RNC posted a revised version, without the apparent mustache.

-by Emi Kolawole and Justin Bank


Ron Paul: Gotta Love Him

February 12, 2008

From Factcheck.org

Wrong Paul
Fantasy, fallacy and factual fumbles from the Republican insurgent.

Ron Paul doesn’t have much of a chance of winning the Republican nomination, but he persists with his well-funded campaign and even talks of turning it into a permanent “Revolution” that will continue far beyond 2008.

We’ve given his statements little attention until now. But here we look at some of his more outlandish claims:

  • Paul claims that a secret conspiracy composed of the Security and Prosperity Partnership and a cabal of foreign companies is behind plans to build a NAFTA Superhighway as the first step toward creating a North American Union. But the NAFTA Superhighway that Paul describes is a myth, and the groups supposedly behind the plans are neither secret nor nefarious.
  • Paul says that the U.S. spends $1 trillion per year to maintain a foreign empire and suggests that we could save that amount by cutting foreign spending. Paul gets that figure by including a lot of domestic programs that he isn’t planning to cut, like the U.S. Border Patrol and interest payments on the debt.
  • Paul has run television ads touting an endorsement from Ronald Reagan, but he fails to mention that, in 1988, Paul wanted “to totally disassociate” himself from the Reagan administration.

Ron Paul’s candidacy is something of an enigma. His impressive fundraising and his legions of dedicated volunteers suggest that he could be among the front-runners in contention for the Republican nomination. Yet his national poll numbers hover consistently just above the margin of error, and on Super Tuesday, he finished last in 17 of 21 contests, including California, where he lost to a candidate who had already withdrawn from the race. He admits he has little hope of winning the nomination.

“Ron Paul” is the most searched term on our site, and until recently, those searches revealed only that Paul had participated in a whole lot of Republican debates. We applied our efforts to candidates with odds of becoming the nominee.

Yet Paul says he will not drop out of the race, and indeed talks of a perpetual campaign. In a message to his followers Feb. 8, he said:

Paul: If I may quote Trotsky of all people, this Revolution is permanent. It will not end at the Republican convention. It will not end in November. It will not end until we have won the great battle on which we have embarked.

So, given the ardency of Paul’s supporters and the scores of e-mails requesting that we write about him, we decided to take a look at Paul’s claims. Here’s some of what we found.

Paging Fox Mulder

The NAFTA Superhighway According to Paul, a secret organization run by unaccountable government figures is in league with foreign corporations who are all bent on usurping American sovereignty. That’s not from the script for a new X-Files movie. (Or not that we know of.) It’s the gist of Paul’s description of a supposed “NAFTA Superhighway.” Paul describes it on his Web site as “a ten-lane colossus the width of several football fields, with freight and rail lines, fiber-optic cable lines, and oil and natural gas pipelines running alongside.” And that’s not all. According to Paul, the ultimate plan is to form a North American Union with a single currency and unlimited travel within its borders, all headed up by “an unholy alliance of foreign consortiums and officials from several governments” that together form the shadowy “quasi-government organization called the ‘Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America,’ or SPP.”

The problem with Paul’s claim is that there are no plans to build a NAFTA Superhighway. Or a North American Union, for that matter. And while the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America does exist, it’s just a boring bureaucracy.

Like many conspiracy theories, this one is a mixture of fact and fiction. That scary-looking map, with lines that rumor suggested were drawn to scale, is the product of an actual group called North America’s SuperCorridor Organization (NASCO), which is a consortium of public and private entities. But contrary to conspiracy theorists, the map does not show a new highway. Those bright blue lines show only I-35 and I-29 – interstates that already exist. On its Web site, NASCO says it and some of the local governments along I-35 have been referring to that route as the “NAFTA Superhighway” for years. NASCO advocates improvements to existing roads, but is not lobbying for, or planning to build, any new thoroughfares. From the NASCO Web site:

NASCO: “NAFTA Superhighway” – As of late, there has been much media attention given to the “new, proposed NAFTA Superhighway”. NASCO and the cities, counties, states and provinces along our existing Interstate Highways 35/29/94 (the NASCO Corridor) have been referring to I-35 as the ‘NAFTA Superhighway’ for many years, as I-35 already carries a substantial amount of international trade with Mexico, the United States and Canada. There are no plans to build a new NAFTA Superhighway – it exists today as I-35.

In terms of new roads, there are, in fact, plans for a Trans-Texas Corridor, a road that would be (in spots) several football fields wide. And the road would be financed by a private company (which is partially Spanish-owned) that would then charge tolls to recoup its investment. But the TTC was approved by the Texas Legislature and the governor of Texas. It is a state initiative, but it is not part of a NAFTA Superhighway, nor is it the product of a shadowy federal conspiracy.

Indeed, Ian Grossman, a spokesman with the Federal Highway Administration told the Los Angeles Times, “There is no such superhighway like the one [Paul is] talking about. It doesn’t exist, in plans or anywhere else.”

The other parts of the conspiracy are much the same. The SPP
that “quasi-government organization” is really an actual government organization, organized through the White House. According to David Bohigian, an assistant secretary of commerce, the SPP is a bureaucratic dialog staffed by mid-level officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico who work to synchronize customs, security and regulations. “Simple stuff,” Bohigian told The Nation last August, “like, for instance, in the U.S. we sell baby food in several different sizes; in Canada, it’s just two different sizes.” Not exactly cloak-and-dagger stuff.

The SPP has a factsheet on its Web site that attempts to put to rest all the tall tales surrounding it. And if that isn’t enough, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Newsweek and the urban legend site Snopes.com all have previously debunked this particular bit of conspiracy-theorizing.

Of course, maybe they’re all in on it, too.

About That Trillion Dollar Empire

In debates, Paul has claimed the U.S. spends a trillion dollars on a “foreign operation” each year to maintain an “empire”:

Paul (Jan. 30): So, yes, this money should be spent back here at home. We have a $1 trillion foreign operation to operate our empire. That’s where the money is. You can’t keep borrowing from China. You can’t keep printing the money.

View Ron PaulOne should be suspicious of this number right away. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects total spending for the current fiscal year to be about $2.9 trillion. President Bush’s proposed fiscal 2009 budget would top $3 trillion for the first time. In fiscal 2008, a total of almost $1.8 trillion goes to mandatory spending on programs like Medicare and Social Security and to interest on the debt. That leaves just under $1.1 trillion in total discretionary spending, of which $572 billion goes to defense spending. Even if we called the entire defense budget an overseas cost of maintaining an empire – and then kicked in the entire $50.6 billion budget for the State Department and international programs – Paul is still $378 billion short.

When we asked the Paul campaign for some documentation for the $1 trillion claim, it directed us to an opinion piece by a fellow at the libertarian-leaning Independent Institute. The article argues that in 2006, the U.S. actually spent just under $1 trillion on defense. To arrive at that figure, the study included a number of items that one might generally not think of as defense spending, including the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, one-third of the funding for the FBI and half of NASA’s funding. The numbers also include medical and retirement pay for veterans and a large portion of interest on the debt.

So it turns out that what Paul says is a trillion dollars for a “foreign operation” includes a lot of things that seem pretty domestic to us. For example:

  • The entire U.S. Border Patrol
  • Every military base in the United States and all the 1.4 million full-time military personnel (not just those serving overseas)
  • Background checks for new immigrants
  • Inspections of incoming cargo
  • All airport security programs
  • The issuing of U.S. passports
  • The FBI’s counter-terrorism unit
  • 92 percent of the interest payments on the national debt

Obviously Paul isn’t advocating defaulting on U.S. Savings Bonds or doing away with border security, or even closing all U.S. embassies overseas. But that makes it all the more misleading for him to suggest that cutting out this “foreign operation” could save $1 trillion per year.

A Flipper on the Gipper

Ron Paul Ad
“The Only One”

Ron Paul Ad Image

Narrator: Who among these men has never supported a tax increase? Never supported an unbalanced budget? Never supported wasteful government spending?

Narrator: Congressman Ron Paul: The taxpayer’s best friend.

Narrator: We need to keep him fighting for our country.

Ron Paul: I’m Ron Paul and I approve this message.

In a recent television ad titled “The Only One,” Paul claims to be the only candidate never to vote for a tax increase, pass an unbalanced budget or support wasteful government spending. The ad closes with the narrator saying, “We need to keep him fighting for our country.” The words are attributed to Ronald Reagan. Paul uses a longer version of the quotation on his Web page:

From Ron Paul Web site:
“Ron Paul is one of the outstanding leaders fighting for a stronger national defense. As a former Air Force officer, he knows well the needs of our armed forces, and he always puts them first.” Ronald Reagan

Paul’s embrace of Reagan’s legacy represents a significant change of heart. Actually, it’s the second time that Paul has changed his mind about Reagan. After endorsing Reagan for president in 1976 and again in 1980, Paul became disenchanted, leaving the Republican party in 1987. The following year, he told the Los Angeles Times:

Paul (May 10, 1988): The American people have never reached this point of disgust with politicians before. I want to totally disassociate myself from the Reagan Administration.

Paul’s disaffection started early in Reagan’s presidency. “Ronald Reagan has given us a deficit 10 times greater than what we had with the Democrats,” Paul told the Christian Science Monitor in 1987. “It didn’t take more than a month after 1981, to realize there would be no changes.”

Sometime between 1988 (during Paul’s run for the presidency on the Libertarian Party ticket) and 1996 (when Paul, running as a Republican once more, successfully ousted an incumbent House member in a GOP primary), Paul once again embraced Reagan’s legacy. The New York Times reported then that Paul had used the longer version of the Reagan quote in a videotape sent to 30,000 households. According to the Times, Reagan’s former attorney general, Edwin Meese III, flew to Texas “to insist that Mr. Reagan had offered no recent endorsements.”

We were unable to document Reagan’s endorsement of Paul. When we asked the Paul campaign for documentation, a spokesperson told us that the campaign was “a little more focused on positive things.” The Paul campaign did not provide the Times with a date for the quotation in 1996, either.

Introduction to Logic

We close with a final point, though this one is directed at Ron Paul supporters. Recently, we’ve received a barrage of e-mail containing variations on this theme: “Am I to assume that by making no mention of Rep. Ron Paul in your synopses of GOP candidates, you found his statements meritorious?” The similarities between the messages led to a bit of searching, and we found what we suspect is the cause: A post at DailyPaul.com alleges that because the author found no instances where we called out Paul for misstatements, “FactCheck.org shows that Ron Paul is truthful.”

We realize that DailyPaul.com is not officially affiliated with Paul’s campaign. But the error is egregious enough that it merits discussion. Here’s the basic argument from DailyPaul:

  1. If FactCheck.org writes about a candidate, then that candidate makes some inaccurate claims.
  2. FactCheck.org has not written about Ron Paul.
  3. Therefore Ron Paul does not make inaccurate claims.

That argument might sound appealing, but, in fact, it is a logical fallacy (philosophers call this one “denying the antecedent”). Consider a different argument that has exactly the same logical structure:

  1. If it is Thursday, then I have to go to work.
  2. It is not Thursday.
  3. Therefore I do not have to go to work.

We wouldn’t recommend trying that argument out on your boss unless, of course, you have a job that requires you to work only on Thursdays. And that’s the problem with the DailyPaul.com argument. It works only to the extent that you assume that we write about every single inaccurate claim uttered by every single political candidate. We don’t. We just hadn’t gotten around to mentioning many Ron Paul flubs.

We’ve corrected that oversight now.

-by Joe Miller

Braun, Stephen. “Paul Believes in Threat of North American Superhighway.” Los Angeles Times, 30 Nov. 2007.

Clymer, Adam. “The Race for Congress: Texas’ 14th District; Under Fire, a G.O.P. Convert Wins Party’s Fierce Loyalty.” New York Times, 8 April 1996.

CNN. “Election Center 2008: Primaries and Caucuses, Florida Results.” CNN Politics. 30 Jan. 2008. 4 Feb. 2008.

Congressional Budget Office. “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2008 – 2012.” January 2008. Congressional Budget Office. 31 Jan. 2008.

Dobbs, Michael. “A ‘Superhighway’ to Nowhere.” 3 Dec. 2007. Washington Post: The Fact Checker. 30 Jan. 2008.

FactCheck.org Shows Ron Paul is Truthful.” 27 Jan. 2008. DailyPaul.com. 4 Feb. 2008.

Hayes, Christopher. “The NAFTA Superhighway.” 9 Aug. 2007. The Nation. 11 Feb. 2008.

Higgs, Robert. “The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget Is Already Here.” 15 March 2007. The Independent Institute. 31 Jan. 2008.

H.B. 3588.” 2 June 2003. Texas Legislature Online. 11 Feb. 2008.

Kennedy, J. Michael. “Politics 88; Hopeless Presidential Race; Libertarian Plods on — Alone and Unheard.” Los Angeles Times, 10 May 1988.

Kovach, Gretel C. “Highway to Hell?” 10 Dec. 2007. Newsweek. 30 Jan. 2008.

LaFranchi, Howard. “Ron Paul; In Former Congressman, Libertarians Think Party Has Best Candidate Ever.” The Christian Science Monitor 29 Sept. 1987.

North America SuperCorridor Coalition Inc. “NASCO Speaks Out.” NASCOcorridor.com. 11 Feb. 2008.

North American Union.” 8 Jan. 2008. Snopes.com. 30 Jan. 2008.

Office of Management and Budget. “Department of State and Other International Programs.” Jan. 2007. Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2008. 4 Feb. 2008.

Office of Management and Budget. “Table 27–1. Budget Authority and Outlays by Function, Category, and Program.” 4 Feb. 2008. Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2009. 5 Feb. 2008.

Office of Management and Budget. “Table S–1. Budget Totals.” 5 Feb. 2008. Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2009. 11 Feb. 2008.

Paul, Ron. “The NAFTA Superhighway.” 31 Oct. 2006. Ron Paul 2008. 30 Jan. 2008.

Republican Presidential Nomination.” 3 Feb. 2008. Real Clear Politics. 5 Feb.y 2008.

SPP Myths vs Facts.” January 2008. Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. 30 Jan. 2008.

Harry and Louise Again?

February 5, 2008

From Factcheck.org

Obama mailer on Clinton health care plan lacks context.
An Obama mailer stretches the differences between the candidates on health care. Specifically:

  • It touts measures included in Obama’s plan to help low-income individuals buy insurance but fails to mention that Clinton would provide similar financial assistance.

  • It says Obama’s plan would save the average family $2,500 per year an estimate provided by experts at the campaign’s request but doesn’t say that Clinton estimates hers will save $2,200 per year.

  • It also neglects to point out that Clinton’s plan isn’t the only one that would have an enforcement mechanism for those who failed to purchase insurance. Obama’s plan, which would require that children be insured, would need one as well, though it would affect fewer persons.

The Clinton campaign objected to the mailer on grounds that its image of a middle-class white couple is reminiscent of the “Harry and Louise” TV spots that the health insurance industry used to attack the 1993 Clinton health care plan. We see the resemblance, but fail to see the relevancy.

Barack Obama said at the Jan. 31 debate in Los Angeles that his health care plan has “about 95 percent” in common with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s. Nevertheless, his campaign sent out a piece of direct mail that lacks a good amount of context and could mislead those who are not familiar with Clinton’s plan. The mail piece drew an angry protest from the Clinton campaign, which compared it to the well-known “Harry and Louise” TV spots by the Health Insurance Association of America that attacked the 1993 Clinton health care plan.

Obama for
America Mailer

Hillary’s health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can’t afford it. Is that the best we can do for families struggling with high health care costs?

Hillary’s health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can’t afford it… and you pay a penalty if you don’t.

The way Hillary Clinton’s health care plan covers everyone is to have the government force uninsured people to buy insurance, even if they can’t afford it.

“…forcing those who cannot afford health insurance to buy it through mandates…punishing those who don’t fall in line with fines.”
– The Daily Iowan, December 21, 2007

Punishing families who can’t afford health care to begin with just doesn’t make sense.

Barack Obama believes that it’s not that people don’t want health care, it’s that they can’t afford it.

Barack Obama believes Americans who don’t have health care coverage desperately want it; they just can’t afford to pay for it. That’s why the Obama plan covers every American by reducing costs more than Hillary Clinton’s, saving the typical family up to $2,500 per year.

Bill Clinton’s own Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, wrote, “I’ve compared the two plans in detail…But in my view Obama’s would insure more people, not fewer, than HRC’s.” – Robert Reich, December 3, 2007

The Obama Health Care Plan:

  • Offers health care coverage for all Americans similar to that of members of Congress, and subsidies to help those who cannot afford it.
  • Reduces insurance costs more than Hillary’s plan, including capping insurance company profits in places where they have taken advantage of people.
  • Saves the typical family up to $2,500 per year.

Read the entire plan at BarackObama.com.

Barack Obama. Health care we can afford. Change we can believe in.

The mailer focuses on the primary difference between the two candidates’ proposals: whether they would require everyone to obtain coverage. Clinton’s plan would require all Americans to get insurance, though she hasn’t said what will happen if they don’t. Obama’s plan would require insurance for all children but not for adults. Both plans would help consumers with the cost of getting coverage – although you wouldn’t know it from reading Obama’s mailer.

Affordability for All?

The mailer opens with the claim that “Hillary’s health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can’t afford it.” Clinton’s plan does require everyone to have health insurance, and there will be some kind of penalty for those who don’t comply. The mailer is correct on that point. But the Obama mailer leaves out any information on cost-reduction measures and low-income help that Clinton’s plan offers, while it touts such measures found in his plan some of which very closely mirror Clinton’s.

For instance, the mailer says Obama’s plan will save the average family $2,500 per year. That estimate comes from several Harvard professors who examined the plan at the Obama campaign’s request. But Clinton says the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs, estimates her plan would do nearly as well, saving about $2,200 per year per family.

Also, the mailer says Obama’s proposal “offers health care coverage for all Americans similar to that of members of Congress, and subsidies to help those who cannot afford it.” It leaves out the fact that Clinton, too, proposes allowing Americans to “choose from dozens of the same plans available to members of Congress,” as her Web site states. Instead of direct federal subsidies, Clinton would rely on tax credits that hold premiums to a set percentage of income:

Clinton Plan: This credit will ensure that securing quality health care is never a crushing burden for any working family. This guarantee will be achieved through a premium affordability tax credit that ensures that health premiums never rise above a certain percentage of family income. The tax credit will be indexed over time, and designed to maintain consumer price consciousness in choosing health plans, even for those who reach the percentage of income limit.

The Clinton plan doesn’t specify what “a certain percentage” will be, and whether health care is perceived as a “crushing burden” will probably depend on the family. Obama’s plan is similarly vague, promising “income-related federal subsidies” for those who “need assistance” but not specifying amount or eligibility requirements.

Student Judgments

The mailer also includes a quote from The Daily Iowan:

Obama Mailer: “forcing those who cannot afford health insurance to buy it through mandates … punishing those who don’t fall in line with fines.”

This snippet is from an opinion column in The Daily Iowan. Obama doesn’t tell readers that this is a college newspaper written and edited by University of Iowa students. That’s not to say it’s wrong, but a student newspaper carries less authority than a professionally written and edited major U.S. daily. The full quote reads, “Rather than forcing those who cannot afford health insurance to buy it through mandates and punishing those who don’t fall in line with fines, Obama’s approach to ensuring total coverage of all Americans aims to lower costs by pinning the pressure on insurance and pharmaceutical companies.”

The Obama campaign is trying to shift the focus to some unspecified “punishment” that Clinton’s plan would mete out for those who didn’t obtain coverage. It’s true that a “mandate” implies penalties for noncompliance, and Clinton’s campaign has yet to outline what those would be. But Obama’s plan, which would mandate coverage for children, would presumably also have some enforcement mechanism, and he doesn’t make explicit what that would be, either, at least as his plan is laid out on his Web site.

“Harry and Louise”

According to news reports, the Clinton campaign lashed out at the use of the mailer in a conference call with selected reporters, complaining that the mail piece bears a resemblance to the “Harry and Louise” TV spots of 1993 and 1994 (pictured here).

One person on the call emotionally said the Obama mail piece was “outrageous as having Nazis march through Skokie, Illinois.” That outburst was quickly disavowed during the call by Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson, who said it is “not a comparison that [the campaign] would make.” The unpaid health care adviser who made the remark, Len Nichols of the New America Foundation, later apologized. He sent an e-mail to reporters saying, “My passions overwhelmed me. I chose an analogy that was wholly inappropriate.”

We agree that there is a resemblance between the photo on the Obama mailer and the TV spots. In those ads actors portraying a white, middle-class couple expressed grave concerns about how the Clinton administration’s health care plan would affect them. The ads were part of a $17 million campaign by the insurance industry that was widely credited – rightly or wrongly – with contributing to the defeat of the Clinton plan, and the ads still anger many advocates of broader government efforts to provide health insurance. But so far as we can see, Obama’s choice of images in his mailer has nothing whatever to do with the accuracy of the claims it makes, or the accuracy of what “Harry and Louise” said, for that matter.

by Jess Henig

Obama, Barack. “Plan for a Healthy America,” 29 May 2007.

Clinton, Hillary. “American Health Choices Plan,” 17 Sept. 2007.

Blumenthal, David and David Cutler and Jeffrey Liebman. “Final Costs Memo,” 29 May 2007.

Caucus 2008: Our Endorsements.” Editorial. The Daily Iowan, 21 Dec. 2007.

Thrush, Glenn. Clinton adviser apologizes for remarks on Obama ad.” Newsday, 2 Feb. 2008.

Scarlett, Thomas. Killing health care reform.” Campaigns & Elections, Oct-Nov 1994.

McCain’s Misleading Mailer

January 25, 2008

From Factcheck.org:
He faults Romney for “providing” state funding for abortions that Romney didn’t seek, and courts ordered.
McCain is sending out a postcard mailing in South Carolina that is misleading on more than one point.

  • It says that “Romney provided taxpayer-funded abortions,” a distortion. Romney’s Massachusetts health-care plan faced a court order requiring abortions to be covered.

  • It says Romney “refused to endorse Bush Tax Cut Plan,” but fails to note that McCain himself voted against it.

  • It says, “Hillary tried to spend $1 million for a Woodstock museum” until “John McCain said NO.” In fact, McCain wasn’t present for the most important votes on the project.


A copy of the mailer was provided to us by the Mitt Romney campaign at our request, after news accounts about it surfaced over the weekend.

It shows a smiling John McCain promising to “fight for lower taxes” and to “veto every single pork-barrel bill that crosses my desk.” Fair enough. Those pledges sound very similar to promises Romney himself has been making. But the mailer goes on to draw a picture of Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts that is so distorted as to discredit McCain’s claim to be the candidate of “straight talk.”

Taxpayer-Funded Abortions?

One section says in bold letters: “Romney provided taxpayer-funded abortions.” That’s unfair and misleading at best and certainly leaves a false impression. Romney never pushed for taxpayer funding for abortions. The state law he signed provided greatly expanded state-subsidized health insurance for low-income residents, but it left decisions about what should be covered to an independent body, the Commonwealth Connector. It was that body, not Romney, that ruled that abortions would be covered.

In truth, the state had little choice but to cover abortions. The state Supreme Court had ruled in 1980 that the Massachusetts Constitution confers on Massachusetts women an even broader right to abortion than does the U.S. Constitution. It restated in a 1997 decision that the state must pay for medically necessary abortions if it pays for all other medically necessary procedures including services in connection with childbirth.

It is possible to argue (and some have done so) that Romney might have put up a public fight to narrow the abortion coverage had he chosen to do so, or that the Commonwealth Connector decided to cover more than is “medically necessary.” But it is simply false for McCain to claim that “Romney provided taxpayer funded abortions” when taxpayers had been ordered by the courts to pay for them long before Romney took office.

Stoning a Glass House

The mailer further says that Romney “refused to endorse Bush Tax Cut Plan,” and there is more than a grain of truth to that.
As we’ve reported before, Romney was quoted in 2003 as telling his state’s congressional delegation that he “won’t be a cheerleader” for cuts that he doesn’t agree with and that he wouldn’t oppose the cuts in public because he “has to keep a solid relationship with the White House.”

What makes the McCain mailer misleading is that McCain himself went way beyond quietly refusing to endorse the 2003 tax cut plan. He was one of only three Senate Republicans to vote against it. The day after Bush proposed the cuts he criticized them as too generous to the rich. “It is middle-income Americans that have kept our economy afloat by buying houses and automobiles,” McCain said on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” “I believe that they deserve the majority of the break, not the higher-income level of Americans.”

By attacking Romney for not supporting the 2003 cuts, McCain invites readers to believe that he himself must have supported them, which isn’t true. Furthermore, McCain also voted against Bush’s 2001 tax cuts, before Romney took office as governor.

Were You at Woodstock?

McCain’s mailer somewhat inflates his role in killing a
proposal that would have allotted $1 million to New York state’s Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the proposed site of a museum celebrating the 1969 Woodstock music festival and its effect on American culture. It was, as the McCain mailing says, supported by Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton, as well as other members of the New York delegation. And strictly speaking, it’s true that “John McCain said NO” to the proposal, in that he was one of three who cosponsored a proposed amendment to strip the project out of the appropriations bill.

But McCain wasn’t present for the key vote or the floor debate on his measure. He was on the campaign trail.

$700 Million in Tax Increases?

We also have a small quibble with the mailer’s claim that “Romney raised taxes by $700 million” in Massachusetts. That’s not strictly true. Most of the added state revenue for which Romney was responsible came in the form of fees, not taxes. And not everybody agrees on the total.

According to an estimate by the Massachusetts Department of Administration and Finance produced by the Romney campaign, increases in fees amounted to $260 million a year, and elimination of corporate tax “loopholes” brought in another $174 million a year. But the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation puts the total of increased fees and corporate taxes at $740 million to $750 million per year.

McCain Comments

McCain denied that his mailer constitutes the sort of “negative campaigning” that he has complained about when aimed at him. On the campaign trail in Michigan, he told reporters that he was just responding to earlier attacks by Romney. As quoted by MSNBC, he said:

McCain: It’s not negative campaigning. I think it’s what his record is. … [W]e will point out those matters of record. It’s a tough business. I said it in the debate the other night. It’s a tough business for all the candidates that are running. When millions of dollars are spent attacking us, we are going to have to respond.

Our judgment, however, is that McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” took a wrong turn with this mailer.

-by Brooks Jackson

Sliming Obama

January 23, 2008

From Factcheck.org

Dueling chain e-mails claim he’s a radical Muslim or a ‘racist’ Christian. Both can’t be right. We find both are false.

If these two nasty e-mail messages are any indication, the 2008 presidential campaign is becoming a very dirty one.

One claims that Obama is “certainly a racist” by virtue of belonging to Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, which it says “will accept only black parishoners” and espouses a commitment to Africa. Actually, a white theology professor says he’s been “welcomed enthusiastically” at the church, as have other non-blacks.

Another e-mail claims that Obama “is a Muslim,” attended a “Wahabi” school in Indonesia, took his Senate oath on the Koran, refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and is part of an Islamic plot to take over the U.S. Each of these statements is false.

These false appeals to bigotry and fear remind us of the infamous whispering campaign of eight years ago, when anonymous messages just before the South Carolina primary falsely accused Republican candidate John McCain of fathering an illegitimate child by a black woman.

We turn first to the most recent of these Internet whispering campaigns: a widely forwarded e-mail that says Barack Obama’s church, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, is anti-American, will only accept black parishioners and tilts toward Africa at the expense of the United States. The e-mail claims Obama is therefore “certainly a racist” and “desires to rule over America while his loyalty is totally vested in a Black Africa.”

We’ve had scores of queries about the accuracy of this one. It’s bunk. For one thing, the church welcomes whites, according to a University of Chicago professor of divinity who says he has attended. And while its controversial pastor is a fiery advocate for blacks and liberal causes and a fierce critic of anti-black discrimination, we’ve seen no evidence that he preaches hatred of or discrimination against whites.

False E-Mail Sent to FactCheck.org Readers
Received Dec. 31, 2007

Subject: Obama’s church

Obama mentioned his church during his appearance with Oprah. It’s the Trinity Church of Christ. I found this interesting.

Obama’s church:
Please read and go to this church’s web site and read what is written there. It is very alarming.

Barack Obama is a member of this church and is running for President of the U.S. If you look at the first page of their web site, you will learn that this congregation has a non-negotiable commitment to Africa. No where is AMERICA even mentioned. Notice too, what color you will need to be if you should want to join Obama’s church…_ B-L-A-C-K!!!_ Doesn’t look like his choice of religion has improved much over his (former?) Muslim upbringing. Are you aware that Obama’s middle name is Mohammed? Strip away his nice looks, the big smile and smooth talk and what do you get? Certainly a racist, as plainly defined by the stated position of his church! And possibly a covert worshiper of the Muslim faith, even today. This guy desires to rule over America while his loyalty is totally vested in a Black Africa!

I cannot believe this has not been all over the TV and newspapers. This is why it is so important to pass this message along to all of our family & friends. To think that Obama has even the slightest chance in the run for the presidency, is really scary.
Click on the link below:
This is the web page for the church Barack Obama belongs to: www.tucc.org/about.htm

The first clue that this e-mail is the product of careless ignorance is that it claims that “Obama’s middle name is Mohammed,” which is false. His middle name is Hussein.

As for the accusations against his church, this e-mail is not the first place they have come up. Nearly a year ago conservative blogger Erik Rush called the church “cultish” and “separatist” in a Feb. 2007 interview on Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes” and questioned whether its parishioners could consider themselves Americans or Christians.

Here are the facts:

It is true that Trinity describes itself as “a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian” and which “does not apologize for its African roots.” The church’s Web site specifies a commitment to Africa and to “historical education of African people in diaspora.” The congregation is overwhelmingly black; few if any whites can be seen in the photographs and videos of the congregation posted on the church’s Web site. But none of that makes the church “racist” or anti-American.

Prof. Martin E. Marty

And in fact, a professor of theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Martin E. Marty, wrote this in April 2007, rebutting Rush’s claims on Fox News:

Prof. Marty: To those in range of Chicago TV I’d recommend a watching of Trinity’s Sunday services, and challenge you to find anything “cultic” or “sectarian” about them. More important, for Trinity, being “unashamedly black” does not mean being “anti-white.” My wife and I on occasion attend, and, like all other non-blacks, are enthusiastically welcomed.

Regarding this renewed attack on Trinity, Prof. Marty told FactCheck, “That kind of e-mail is vicious and lying, and makes my blood boil. … Many civic officials, public school teachers, etc. are members at Trinity; [Rev. Jeremiah] Wright has been on TV with his services for years, and no one found them racist it’s smear politics.”

Trinity would not comment to us for this article. Rev. Wright, however, appeared on Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” on March 2, 2007, and responded at length to the claim made by Rush. He said in part:

Alan Colmes:  I want the public to understand where your church is coming from, because you’re being accused of being a black separatist church, and thus Obama is being accused by default of being a black separatist. Can you straighten that out for us, please?

Wright: OK. The African-centered point of view does not assume superiority, nor does it assume separatism. It assumes Africans speaking for themselves as subjects in history, not objects in history.

There’s no question that Wright has been a controversial figure, a passionate advocate for black self-help and to some, a radical. Jason Byassee, in a lengthy article on the church published in Christian Century magazine, said, “There is no denying … that a strand of radical black political theology influences Trinity.” He added, “Conservatives may find the Africentric church too political, and liberals may squirm over its revivalist emotion.” But he praised the church’s success in growing to more than 8,000 members, making this black congregation the largest single church in a predominately white United Church of Christ denomination, saying “the black church continues to makes converts in unlikely places, reflecting a God who makes a way where there is no way.”

Wherever we looked we found ample evidence that Obama’s church is pro-black, but we found none to support a claim that it is anti-white. Calling it “racist” is, in our judgment, a falsehood.

The Manchurian Islamic Candidate?

Readers have also asked us about an oft-forwarded e-mail falsely claiming that Obama is a Muslim and suggesting that he is part of an Islamic plot to take over the U.S. “from the inside out” with “one of their own.” This screed reads like the outline of a bad remake of the 1962 movie The Manchurian Candidate, in which Frank Sinatra unravels a Communist plot to make “one of their own” the president.

There is little excuse for those who continue to circulate this one. The most audacious falsehood it contains (of several) is a claim near the top: “We checked this out on ‘snopes.com’. It is factual. Check for yourself.” Anyone who actually does that would quickly find that Snopes.com, the respected debunker of urban myths, judges the message to be “false.” And yet we continue to receive examples sent to our readers by others who either don’t take the time to check, or who don’t care that they are repeating false and damaging statements.

False E-Mail Sent to FactCheck.org Readers
Received January 6, 2008

Who is Barack Obama?

Very interesting and something that should be considered in your choice.

If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts…this is very scary to think of what lies ahead of us here in our own United States…better heed this and pray about it and share it.

We checked this out on “snopes.com”. It is factual. Check for yourself.

Who is Barack Obama?

Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHEIST from Wichita, Kansas.

Obama’s parents met at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. Hi s father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia.?
When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocate to Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school.

Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim.
He is quick to point out that, “He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school.”

Obama’s political handlers are attempting to make it appear that
that he is not a radical.

Obama’s introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son’s education.

Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta.

Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran.

Barack Hussein Obama will NOT recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor will he show any reverence for our flag. While others place their hands over their hearts, Obama turns his back to the flag and slouches.

Let us all remain alert concerning Obama’s expected presidential candidacy.
The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level – through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!!

Please forward to everyone you know. Would you want this man leading our country?…… NOT ME!!!

This claim, and others similar to it, originated with a Jan. 2007 Insight Magazine article – a publication owned by News World Communications, which also owns the conservative Washington Times newspaper:

Insight: Are the American people ready for an elected president who was educated in a Madrassa as a young boy and has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage?

This article, citing anonymous sources, claimed that “Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.” But this allegation was quickly shown to be false. Days after the article appeared, CNN sent reporter John Vause to Jakarta, Indonesia, to visit the school. He reported:

CNN: I came here to Barack Obama’s elementary school in Jakarta looking for what some are calling an Islamic madrassa … like the ones that teach hate and violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. … I’ve been to those madrassas in Pakistan … this school is nothing like that.

CNN interviewed the school’s deputy headmaster, Hardi Priyono, who said: “This is a public school. We don’t focus on religion.”

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

That same day, Obama’s Senate office issued a press release saying the claims in the magazine story were false and citing CNN and other reports. Subsequent news stories in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune found no merit in the madrassa claim. Obama’s childhood in Indonesia, a country with the world’s largest Muslim population, is not something he has attempted to hide. He dedicates pages in his best-selling book “Dreams from My Father” to his life overseas.

This e-mail cobbles together some other false claims that have been circulating for months.

Swore on Koran? The e-mail says “when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran” – bunk yet again. Obama did not place his hand on the Koran when he was sworn into the U.S. Senate. This claim confuses Obama with the first and only Muslim member of Congress, Democratic House member Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Obama was sworn in using his own Bible, as widely reported in newspaper accounts and pictured above. That’s his wife holding the Bible with Vice President Dick Cheney swearing him in. (Under the Constitution, the vice president serves as president of the Senate.)

Pledge of Allegiance? The slime doesn’t stop there. The e-mail also claims Obama “will NOT recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor will he show any reverence for our flag” and that “while others place their hands over their hearts, Obama turns his back to the flag and slouches.” These e-mails usually come with this photo, seen here as it appears on Time.com’s Web site:

Time.com Photograph

The photograph was taken during a “steak-fry” for Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa on Sept. 16, 2007. What is pictured is the singing of the national anthem, not a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. For proof, see this video taken by ABC News during the event.

And for proof that Obama has no problem reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, check this video of C-SPAN’s recording of the Senate’s morning business, with Obama presiding, on June 21, 2007. Or this one from Feb. 1, 2007.

A point not raised in this e-mail: Some have complained that Obama should have placed his hand over his heart during the singing of the anthem, as pictured in the Time photo. It is true that the U.S. Code states that “all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.” But the word “should” rather than “shall” makes that a recommendation and not a legal requirement. To confirm, we spoke with Anne Garside, director of communication for the Maryland Historical Society 
home of the original manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and asked if anyone could be punished for not placing their hands over their hearts during the national anthem.  She quickly replied, “Oh, of course not,” adding that “there is no obligation to put your hand over your heart.” Garside told us she has been asked numerous times about this rumor and finds the controversy to have “gotten a little bit ridiculous.”

The “Black Baby” smear

Scurrilous smears like those contained in these two e-mails can have a damaging effect. Before the South Carolina primary in 2000, for example, phone calls were made to voters in which the callers claimed to be taking a poll, asking: “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?” McCain had done no such thing. He and his wife had adopted their daughter Bridget, who has dark skin, as a baby from Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh. A professor at Bob Jones University also had sent an e-mail message telling South Carolinians that McCain had “chosen to sire children without marriage,” which wasn’t true. McCain lost the 2000 primary, and the Republican nomination, to George W. Bush.

Such attacks usually can be disproved with less effort than it takes to forward them to others. The statement that Snopes endorsed the false claim that Obama is a Muslim radical is an example. So we find it disappointing that they continue to circulate. But we expect to see more of them as the election year wears on, and we’ll do our best to expose them when readers bring them to our attention.

–by Jess Henig and Emi Kolawole

Correction, Jan. 11: In our original article, we inadvertently dropped the word “United” from one reference to Obama’s church. It is the United Church of Christ, which is different from the Church of Christ.

Obama’s Pastor: Rev. Jeremiah Wright.” FoxNews.com interview archive, 2 Mar. 2007.

Byassee, Jason. “Africentric church: a visit to Chicago’s Trinity UCC.”
Christian Century, 29 May 2007.

Fiore, Faye. “He’s the Hill’s King for a Day, but Senate Has Other Plans.” The Los Angeles Times, 5 Jan. 2005.

Adair, Bill. “E-Mail Assailing Obama’s Patriotism Misses Mark.” St. Petersburg Times, 9 Nov. 2007.

Coleman, Francis. “Stop the mass e-mails before it’s too late.” Mobile Register, 11 Nov. 2007.

Kurtz, Howard. “Campaign Allegation A Source of Vexation.” The Washington Post, 22 Jan. 2007.

Drobnic Holan, Angie. “Obama attended an Indonesian public school.” PolitiFact.com, 10 Jan. 2008.

Beacon Jr., Perry. “Foes Use Obama’s Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him.” The Washington Post, 29 Nov. 2007.

Davis, Richard H. “The anatomy of a smear campaign,” The Boston Globe, 21 Mar. 2004.

Steinhauer, Jennifer. “Confronting Ghosts of 2000 in South Carolina.” New York Times, 19 Oct. 2007.

N.H. Debate: The Dem’s Turn

January 10, 2008

From Factcheck.org

When the going gets tough, the tough get misleading.
During the Democratic portion of the Jan. 5 New Hampshire debate:

  • Obama claimed we are “back where we started two years ago” in Iraq. Actually, all indicators of violence show dramatic improvement compared with two years ago.
  • Clinton repeated a misleading claim that the 2005 energy bill was “larded with all kinds of special interest breaks” for the oil industry. Actually, the bill resulted in a net increase in taxes on the oil industry, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
  • Obama stated that U.S. medical care costs “twice as much per capita as any other advanced nation,” which is incorrect. U.S. spending is double the average, but not double that of all others.

  • Clinton said there is no reason that U.S. troops should be in Iraq “beyond today,” but she has also conceded that she might keep combat troops fighting there for years.

In the analysis section we note further misstatements and twisted facts, and we find that Clinton was close to the mark when she criticized Obama for shifting positions on the USA Patriot Act.

The Democratic debate took place on the same stage at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire as the just-completed Republican version and had the same moderators: ABC’s Charles Gibson and WMUR’s Scott Spradling. There were only four participants: Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, former Sen. John Edwards, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Improvement in Iraq

Obama vastly understated the improvement in the security situation in Iraq when he said:

Obama: We saw a spike in the violence, the surge reduced that violence, and we now are, two years later, back where we started two years ago. We have gone full circle at enormous cost to the American people.

There was indeed a spike in the violence in Iraq during the last two years that has been receding as of late. Most recently, nearly all statistical indicators show that violence is sharply lower than it was two years ago, according to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index.

Clinton’s Oily Charge

Clinton repeated a bit of recycled bunk about tax cuts for the oil industry.

Clinton: You know, the energy bill that passed in 2005 was larded with all kinds of special interest breaks, giveaways to the oil companies. Senator Obama voted for it. I did not because I knew that it was going to be an absolute nightmare. Now we’re all out on the campaign trail talking about taking the tax subsidies away from the oil companies, some of which were in that 2005 energy bill.

hillaryWe’ve called Clinton on this once before. It’s true that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained $14.3 billion in tax breaks, but most of those breaks were for electric utilities, nuclear power plants, alternative fuels research and subsidies for energy efficient cars and homes. In fact, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the $2.6 billion in tax breaks for oil companies was offset by $2.9 billion in tax increases. The net was a $300 million tax increase over 11 years.

Double the Health Spending? Not Quite.

Obama repeated an old chestnut about health care costs:

Obama: Our medical care costs twice as much per capita as any other advanced nation.

This is an exaggeration. The United States does spend nearly twice as much on average as most developed nations, but it is inaccurate to say that it spends twice as much as “any other.” In a 2007 Kaiser Family Foundation report comparing the health care spending of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries, the United States came in first at $5,711 per capita. But Luxembourg spent $4,611, only $1,100 less per capita than the U.S. The next biggest spender, Switzerland, spent $3,874, also far more than half of U.S. spending. France’s per capita spending was $3,048, still more than half of the costs in this country. KFF noted, however, that the United States’ spending was “over 90% higher than in many other countries that we would consider global competitors.”

Bring the Troops Home. Now. Sort Of.

Clinton said she sees no reason U.S. troops should remain in Iraq “beyond today,” but she also has said U.S. troops could remain in some combat roles in Iraq for several years.

Clinton: So it’s time to bring our troops home and to bring them home as quickly and responsibly as possible and unfortunately, I don’t see any reason why they should remain beyond, you know, today. I think George Bush doesn’t intend to bring them home, but certainly I have said when I’m president I will. Within 60 days, I’ll start that withdrawal.

Clinton manages to say, within just a few sentences, that she’ll start the withdrawal “within 60 days” of becoming president; she doesn’t see why our forces “should remain beyond, you know, today”; and we should “bring them home as quickly and responsibly as possible.” What does all this mean? It’s really hard to say.

We noted in September, after a debate in which the candidates were questioned by NBC’s Tim Russert, that Clinton has put a number of caveats on her goal of having the troops out by the end of her first term. And Michael Dobbs, who writes the Washington Post‘s Fact Checker feature, has assembled some of the conditions Clinton has listed that might require a continued troop presence, such as continuing counterterrorism operations, protecting the U.S. embassy, countering Iranian influence, helping the Kurds and training the Iraqis.

We take no position on whether withdrawing the troops immediately, in stages or not at all is the best course. But we do quarrel with simplistic applause lines that mask a much more complicated position, and are thus misleading.

Clinton vs. Obama

Clinton took direct aim at Obama, her chief rival at the moment, by portraying him as a flip-flopper, and she connects fairly solidly:

Clinton: You’ve changed positions within three years on, you know, a range of issues that you put forth when you ran for the Senate and now you have changed. You know, you said you would vote against the Patriot Act; you came to the Senate, you voted for it. You said that you would vote against funding for the Iraq war; you came to the Senate and you voted for $300 billion of it.

Clinton is correct to say that Obama opposed the Patriot Act during his run for the U.S. Senate. She’s relying on a 2003 Illinois National Organization for Women questionnaire in which Obama wrote that he would vote to “repeal the Patriot Act” or replace it with a “new, carefully crafted proposal.” As for whether or not he would have voted against it when it was first proposed in 2001, Obama said in October 2004 that he wasn’t sure:

Obama: I like to think that, had I been in the Senate, I would have cast the second vote against the Patriot Act. … But this is how much I admire Russ Feingold: I can’t guarantee it. I say that I would have voted against the Patriot Act. But I wasn’t there in the pressure of that moment – so shortly after Sept. 11 and with anthrax being mailed into Capitol Hill.

(Feingold’s was the lone Senate vote against the USA Patriot Act in 2001.)

dems.allWhen it came time to reauthorize the law in 2005, though, Obama voted in favor of it. He started out opposing it: In December 2005, then-Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) brought the bill up for a vote, and Obama said on the Senate floor that he would vote against ending debate – a position equivalent to declaring a lack of support for the measure. He followed through and voted against the motion, and the Patriot Act reauthorization bill sat dormant until 2006. Then in February of that year, Obama said on the floor that he would support the Patriot Act’s reauthorization. When Frist brought the bill to the floor again in March 2006, Obama both voted for cloture and for the Patriot Act reauthorization conference report, sending the bill to the president. He also later supported a bill with additional amendments to the Patriot Act, including some civil liberties protections.

Clinton, by the way, followed exactly the same path on the 2005 bill, from speaking in opposition to voting for it.

Clinton vs. Obama, Part II

Update, Jan. 7: We did not include the following section in the story when we posted it last night because we were promised additional information by the Obama campaign. We now have that material and can assess the charge by Clinton.

The second part of Clinton’s quote in the section above, which tars Obama with flip-flopping on the war in Iraq, refers to his position on an $87 billion war funding supplemental bill that came to a vote in 2003. In a speech to the New Trier Democratic Party in Illinois in November of that year, he said he would have voted against it. Specifically, he told the crowd:

Obama: Just this week, when I was asked, would I have voted for the $87 billion dollars, I said “no.” I said no unequivocally because, at a certain point, we have to say no to George Bush. If we keep on getting steamrolled, we are not going to stand a chance.

Four years later Obama attempted to add context to his New Trier remarks in this May 2007 interview on ABC’s “This Week,” saying he supported $67 billion of the $87 billion since that money was directed to the troops:

George Stephanopoulos: But back in 2003, you were against supplemental funding for the war. You gave a speech where you said I would vote against the $87 billion.
Obama: That is true. … And the reason was because I was trying to establish a principle at that time and I said this at the time that for us to be giving $20 billion in reconstruction dollars in a no-bid process where money could potentially be wasted was a problem. But what I also said at that time was that the 67 billion that was needed for the troops was something that I would gladly vote for and I’ve been consistent in saying that as much as I think this has been if not the biggest then one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in history, I want to make sure that our troops who are on the ground who perform magnificently aren’t caught in the political cross fire in Washington.

It’s true Obama had made the distinction, but we were unable to find any evidence that he made it in his New Trier speech or that it was as detailed as he claims. Neither the Obama campaign nor the New Trier Democrats could provide a transcript. He did make this distinction in an October 2003 NAACP forum, according to this report from The Hyde Park Citizen, a local Illinois paper:

Hyde Park Citizen: Obama said he would put more money toward the troops, but not rebuilding Iraq. “We need to make sure that every dollar that is spent in Iraq is spent at home,” he said. “We could have had our allies paying for [their] building process and contributing to the troops.”

But Obama has since voted in favor of Iraq war funding, as has Clinton, on at least 14 separate occasions. Those bills have included a number of line-items ranging from funding for Iraqi reconstruction the type of funding Obama said he would vote against to unrelated activities such as tsunami relief and Hurricane Katrina recovery.

The Obama campaign argues that Obama’s support for war funding has been contingent on the money being attached to a troop withdrawal timetable. This has been true for a majority of his most recent votes in 2007. But his earlier votes, dating back to 2005, came with no such caveat, and we found only one occasion prior to 2007 when Obama voted against a motion to push forward funding for the war. But that vote was immediately followed by one in favor of the underlying bill.

Score this one for Clinton, though it’s not a home run.

A Billion Here, a Billion There…

During the debate, three of the four Democrats gave different totals for the cost of the Iraq war (Clinton did not proffer a number).

Obama: It has cost us upwards of $1 trillion. It may get close to 2 (trillion dollars).
Richardson: … the $570 billion that we’ve spent on this war.
Edwards: $600 billion dollars and counting.

Richardson was closest when he said the U.S had spent $570 billion, but he was still over by, oh, about $120 billion. According to the Congressional Research Service, spending on the Iraq war through FY 2007 was $448.6 billion. Edwards was farther off when he said $600 billion. That figure is closer to the amount spent on all military operations, including Afghanistan ($608.8 billion) Or the amount that has been requested for Iraq through the next year ($606.9 billion.)

Obama doubled the numbers when he said, “It has cost us upwards of $1 trillion. It may get close to 2 (trillion dollars).” He is most likely citing the work of the Democratic majority’s staff on the Joint Economic Committee that attempted to estimate the “total economic cost” by calculating the “shadow cost” of the war, an estimated figure that accounts for the loss of cash flow, interest and available capital to the American taxpayer.

Ode to the Patient’s Bill of Rights

edwardsJohn Edwards claimed to have been one of three authors of the Patient’s Bill of Rights. Clinton pointed out that it never became law. Everyone said that Bush killed it.

Edwards: What we did and I didn’t do it alone, don’t claim to have done it alone but I, Senator McCain who was here earlier, Senator Kennedy, the three of us wrote the Patient’s Bill of Rights, the three of us took on the powerful insurance industry and their lobby every single day of the fight for the Patient’s Bill of Rights and we got that bill through the United States Senate and got it passed.

Clinton: You know, Senator Edwards did work and get the Patient’s Bill of Rights through the Senate; it never got through the House. … We don’t have a Patient’s Bill of Rights.

Edwards: Because George Bush – George Bush killed it.

Clinton: Well, that’s right, he killed it.

Edwards is correct that he was a prime mover behind the bill. And Clinton is right in saying it never became law. But Bush wasn’t the only executioner. The Republican majorities in the House and Senate never entered serious negotiations to resolve differences between the Senate’s bill and the much weaker version that passed the House.

Richardson Recycles

Richardson repeated some of his dubious boasts yet again, and he’s waited long enough on one of them that he’s almost right: “I’ve created 80,000 new jobs. … I’ve insured kids under 12 in my state. I’ve improved education.” In fact, New Mexico hasn’t yet seen the 80,000 job gain that Richardson has been boasting of for more than a year, starting at a time when the rise during his term in total nonfarm employment in the state was only 68,100. As we said in August when we first exposed this falsehood, Richardson will eventually be right. But not yet. As of the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released last week, the state had gained only 79,400 jobs since the month before Richardson took office.

And while it’s true that New Mexico teacher salaries have gone up and some test scores have improved a bit, the reading scores for eighth-grade students have actually fallen since Richardson took office. The state remains near the bottom in all student test categories.

Return to Sender

A couple of statements were so wildly off-base that we’re wondering if the candidates simply made verbal typos. Still, we feel obliged to correct the record. One of these flubs was by Edwards, when he said that he “saw a projection just a week or so ago suggesting that America could lose as many as 20 [million] to 30 million more jobs over the next decade.” Maybe he was referring to certain categories of jobs, because the U.S. is expected to have a net gain in jobs overall – almost as many as Edwards says we’ll lose. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total employment is expected to increase from 150.6 million in 2006 to 166.2 million in 2016, or about 10 percent. Things are somewhat bleaker in the manufacturing industry, where BLS predicts that 1.5 million jobs will be lost by 2016. While bad, that’s actually not as bad as the 3 million manufacturing jobs that BLS says we’ve lost between 1996 and 2006.

Update, Jan. 7: After this article appeared, the Edwards campaign contacted us to give the source for his statement. The senator was referring to a projection by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal group critical of reduced trade barriers, that between 18 percent and 22 percent of today’s jobs “could potentially be offshored,” meaning sent overseas. The report stressed, however, that of these “potentially” lost jobs only a fraction were likely to be lost, in fact. And the report made no attempt to balance lost jobs against those gained in U.S. industries that export goods or services.

The other statement involved Richardson, who said that “there’s been a proliferation of loose nuclear weapons, mainly in the hands of terrorists, that could cross presumably a border.” But neither the FBI nor the CIA nor the National Threat Initiative has found evidence that terrorists currently have nuclear weapons.

– by Viveca Novak, with Brooks Jackson, Justin Bank, Jess Henig, Emi Kolawole, Joe Miller and Lori Robertson

Correction, Jan. 8: In our original article, we incorrectly said that Bill Richardson was mistaken in citing the price of gasoline in New Hampshire. An observant reader alerted us to the fact that Richardson was talking about the price of home heating oil, not gasoline. Richardson was correct to say that home heating oil in the state is at its highest price ever, and in fact costs slightly more than the figure he cited.






Obama at New Trier. 21 Mar. 2007. The Politico (via YouTube). 6 Jan. 2008.

ABC “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Guest: Barack Obama. 13 May 2007. Transcript. Federal News Service.

Sen. Obama Promised to Support Repealing PATRIOT Act, Then Voted to Extend It. 6 Jan. 2008. Hillary Clinton for President. 6 Jan. 2008

Illinois NOW Questionnaire for Senator Barack Obama. 10 Sept. 2003. Illinois National Organization for Women [via ABC News]. 6 Jan. 2008.

Senate Floor Statement of Senator Barack Obama on the Patriot Act. 15 Dec. 2005. U.S. Senate. 6 Jan. 2008.

Congressional Record pg. S13712

Obama, Barack. Senate Floor Statement of Senator Barack Obama on S. 2271 – USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization. 16 Feb. 2006. U.S. Senate. 6 Jan. 2008.

Senate Roll Call Vote No. 25

War at any Price: The total economic costs of the war beyond the Federal Budget,” Joint Economic Committee. Prepared by the majority staff. Nov. 2007.

Amy, Belasco. “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11.” Congressional Research Service. 9 Nov. 2007.

Major Executive Speeches: Global Intiative Nuclear Terrorism Conference. 11 June 2007. Federal Bureau of Investigation. 6 Jan. 2008.

The Worldwide Threat in 2003: Evolving Dangers in a Complex World. 11 Feb. 2003. Central Intelligence Agency. 6 Jan. 2008.

Bunn, Matthew. “Securing the Bomb 2007.” The Nuclear Threat Initiative (2007): 1-188.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Retail Gasoline Prices by Grade by Formulation.” EIA Web site, 6 Jan. 2008.

Oil Price Information Service, New Hampshire average. AAA, 6 Jan. 2008.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Retail Gasoline Historical Prices.” EIA Web site, 6 Jan. 2006.

Jared Bernstein, Lawrence Mishel, James Lin, “Quantifying the Threat of Offshoring.” Economic Policy Institute, 14 Nov. 2007.

Chinn, Lesley R. “Eleven Senate Candidates Debate Issues at NAACP.” Hyde Park Citizen. 9 Oct. 2003: 44.

Senate Vote 109, 2005

Senate Vote 117, 2005
Senate Vote 252, 2005
Senate Vote 254, 2005
Senate Vote 326, 2005
Senate Vote 364, 2005
Senate Vote 366, 2005
Senate Vote 112, 2006
Senate Vote 171, 2006
Senate Vote 261, 2006
Senate Vote 117, 2007
Senate Vote 125, 2007
Senate Vote 126, 2007
Senate Vote 147, 2007
Senate Vote 172, 2007
Senate Vote 181, 2007

N.H. Debate: The GOP Field

January 10, 2008

From Factcheck.org.

Republican candidates swing hard, tally some factual strikeouts

Republican and Democratic candidates participated in double-header debates in New Hampshire Jan. 5 in advance of the state’s first-in-the-nation primary. Republicans were up first, and they got a little wild with their swings:

  • Romney claimed that the 47 million Americans who lack health care are not covered because they say “I’m not going to play. I’m just going to get free care paid for by everybody else.” Experts say that very few who are offered insurance turn it down and that the uninsured get worse care.

  • Giuliani falsely blamed President Clinton for cuts in the military that occurred in large part under President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He said that “the Army had been at 725,000; it’s down to 500,000.” That’s true, but it was down to 572,423 by the time Clinton took office.

  • McCain recalled that he “strongly disagreed” with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and had “no confidence” in his Iraq strategy “at the time.” But he didn’t say publicly that he had no confidence in Rumsfeld until December 2004, after Bush was reelected and well after the war began.
  • Romney falsely denied that an attack ad called McCain’s immigration bill “amnesty,” though it does. One of his Web ads also attacks McCain for supporting “amnesty.” He conceded during the debate that McCain’s bill “technically” isn’t amnesty.
  • Giuliani claimed that “economists” say health insurance rates would fall by up to 50 percent if millions more shopped for policies individually. Once again, his campaign was unable to produce a single economist who supports that figure.

  • Romney claimed his Massachusetts state insurance program had reduced the number of uninsured in Massachusetts by 300,000. That’s the number who have gained coverage under the system, but many were covered previously through other means.

There were other false and misleading statements, which we note in the body of this article. We will turn to misstatements by the Democratic candidates in a second article.

The (slightly) narrowed Republican field debated at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. John McCain, Rep. Ron Paul, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson took part. Charles Gibson of ABC and Scott Spradling of WMUR-TV moderated.

Romney’s Freeloaders
Romney offered a theory for the number of uninsured that is simply false:

Romney: And the reason health care isn’t working like a market right now is you have 47 million people that are saying, “I’m not going to play. I’m just going to get free care paid for by everybody else.” That doesn’t work.

mittThis idea – that most uninsured Americans simply don’t feel like having health insurance – has been heard before from this year’s GOP field. We addressed it here, after Huckabee claimed at a Dec. 10 debate that a third of the uninsured "think they’re healthy and invincible." Experts say this is simply not the case: Most people who are offered insurance do not turn it down, neither because of perceived invincibility nor from an unwillingness to "play" the insurance game.

The National Academies report that "only 4 percent of all workers ages 18 to 44 (roughly 3 million people) are uninsured because they decline available workplace health insurance, and many do so because they cannot afford the cost." A 2007 study published in Health Affairs found that 56 percent of the uninsured were neither eligible for public coverage nor able to afford insurance without assistance.  This study also found that 20 percent of the uninsured could have afforded coverage, but even leaving aside other factors like being turned down for insurance, that’s hardly 47 million people refusing to “play.”

Romney is also misleading when he implies that the uninsured are simply choosing between toeing the line and freeloading as two roughly equal ways of obtaining health care. While uninsured individuals can get a certain amount of free emergency care, it is by no means comparable to the care given to those with insurance. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the uninsured have less access to care, are more likely to be hospitalized, are often financially unable to follow treatment plans, get less preventive care and are in general poorer health than the insured. Poorer health among the uninsured could also affect their ability to purchase private coverage, since insurance companies often reject individuals with preexisting conditions.


Rudy’s Historic Rewrite

Giuliani falsely blamed President Clinton for cuts in the military that happened mostly under a Republican administration:

Giuliani: Bill Clinton cut the military drastically. It’s called the peace dividend, one of those nice-sounding phrases, very devastating. It was a 25, 30 percent cut in the military. President Bush has never made up for that. We our Army had been at 725,000; it’s down to 500,000.

Actually, most of the cutting to which Giuliani refers occurred during the administration of George H.W. Bush. At the end of fiscal year 1993 (which was Bush’s last one in office), the Army had 572,423 active-duty soldiers – a far cry from 725,000. In fact, to get to that number, one has to go back to 1990, during the first gulf war. Moreover, Clinton’s cuts in the military, while large, were nowhere close to 25 percent to 30 percent. Between 1993 and 2001, the Army went from 572,423 to 480,801, which is a decline of 16 percent. The entire military went from 1,705,103 to 1,385,116, a decrease of 18.8 percent.

Compare that with the far larger cuts made during the first Bush administration: In 1989, the military stood at 2,130,229 and the Army had 769,741 soldiers. By 1993, those numbers had declined by 19.9 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively.

And as we’ve pointed out before, it was the first Bush administration
specifically then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney – that began bragging openly of the peace dividend.

McCain’s Questionable Timeline

In his rush to criticize Donald Rumsfeld’s defense strategy, Sen. John McCain did some rewriting of his personal history:

McCain: Now, I strongly disagree with the strategy employed by Secretary Rumsfeld, and by the way, I’m the only one here that disagreed at the time. And I’m the only one at the time that said we’ve got to employ a new strategy and outlined what it was, which is the Petraeus strategy. And I said at the time I had no confidence in the then-secretary of defense.

john It’s true that McCain was an early critic of Rumsfeld’s strategy in Iraq. In a November 2003 interview with PBS’ Jim Lehrer, McCain said:

McCain: I respect the opinions of Secretary Rumsfeld and our military commanders but. … All of the trends are in the wrong direction. … And so in my view we need more special forces, more Marines, more counter intelligence, more MPs, more of the kinds of forces that do counter insurgency work.

And it’s also true that McCain refused to offer Rumsfeld a vote of confidence. When President Bush reappointed Rumsfeld as secretary of defense following his 2004 reelection, McCain responded, “The president of the United States was reelected by a majority of the American people, and I respect his right. And I will work with the president obviously and with the secretary of defense.” But when specifically asked whether his comment was a vote of confidence, McCain replied, “No, it is not.”

But McCain’s expression of no confidence came in December 2004 – well into the Iraq war. Rumsfeld’s decision to invade with a much smaller force than the one suggested by his more traditional generals – the famous “shock and awe” strategy – was implemented in March 2003.

Hollow Denials on “Amnesty”

Romney was wrong when he denied that his attack ads described McCain’s immigration bill as “amnesty” for illegal aliens:

McCain: [T]he fact is it’s it [sic] not amnesty. And for you to describe
it as you do in the attack ads, my friend, you can spend your whole
fortune on these attack ads, but it still won’t be true.

Romney: No, no, no, no. I get a chance to respond to this. I’m
sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t describe your plan as amnesty in my ad. I
don’t call it amnesty. What I say is and you just described what
most people would say is a form of amnesty.

In fact Romney has been running an ad since Dec. 28 that says “McCain pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here permanently” while Romney “opposes amnesty for illegals,” adding: “Mitt Romney, John McCain, there is a difference.” That’s pretty clearly accusing McCain of supporting “amnesty.” Otherwise there would be no “difference” on that issue. (The ad also falsely accuses McCain of supporting payment of Social Security benefits to illegal aliens. See our Dec. 28 article for more on the ad.)

Romney also released a Web ad called “Twists” on Jan. 4 that says “McCain supported this year’s amnesty bill.” And even as the debate was in progress, the Romney campaign sent out an e-mail saying, “Sen. McCain Still Won’t Admit He Supported Amnesty.”

We give credit to Romney for conceding during the debate that the McCain immigration bill “technically” would not have granted amnesty, which dictionaries define as a pardon. The bill would have required payment of thousands of dollars in fines and fees by any illegal alien applying for legal status. But Romney’s denial that his advertising accuses McCain of supporting “amnesty” rings hollow.

For McCain’s part, he denied ever favoring amnesty.

McCain: Let me just say I’ve never supported amnesty.

McCain is right when he says that his bill required penalties to be paid by illegals trying to adjust their status. But he himself has in the past used the “a” word to describe what he had in mind for instance, in an interview with the Tucson Citizen on May 29, 2003.

McCain: “Amnesty has to be an important part because there are people who have lived in this country for 20, 30 or 40 years, who have raised children here and pay taxes here and are not citizens.

And going back farther, McCain used the term in a 2000 press release to describe his support for a bill that would allow more Latino immigrants in this country to gain citizenship without having to return to their home countries. The release is still posted on his Web site.

Rudy’s Fluctuating Fantasy Number

Giuliani repeated his unsupported claim that health insurance premiums would fall by 30 percent or more if millions more bought them individually:

Giuliani: Only 17 million Americans right now buy their own health insurance. If 50 million Americans were buying their own health insurance  because it would be just as tax-advantageous to do it that way and we had a health savings account, people economists believe there’d be a 30 [percent] to 50 percent
reduction in the cost of health insurance, and quality would come up.

That's a change from last October, when Giuliani claimed that the reduction would be "more than 50 percent." When we challenged the figure then, the campaign could produce no studies or statistics to support the mayor's statement. We concluded that "the only backup we could find is Giuliani’s own faith in the virtue of free markets."

This time Giuliani is saying that unnamed "economists" predict a somewhat smaller reduction of "30 to 50 percent," but once again his campaign cannot back up his claim. When we asked for the name of a single economist who had produced such a figure, in a peer-reviewed journal or elsewhere, it furnished us with a quote from a campaign adviser, Scott W. Atlas, M.D. He is a professor of radiology and chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical School, but he is not an economist. And Dr. Atlas did not directly support the claim of a 30 percent to 50 percent reduction, though he did express a belief that insurance rates would fall "drastically":

Atlas: If we greatly expand the number of people who purchase
health insurance in the private market, we will be able to drastically bring down costs. As we expand the private market with value conscious consumers – as Mayor Giuliani wants to do – health care will not be immune to the laws of economics. It is a simple fact that with a more open and robust market with more consumers shopping for insurance they want instead of what government mandates impose upon them, and with more suppliers competing to attract that money, prices will come down, choice of insurance products will increase, and quality will go up.

We have no quarrel with anyone voicing personal faith in free markets. But Giuliani is wrong to say that "economists" have produced a precise estimate of savings. He implies scholarly support that  so far as we can tell and his campaign has been able to show  doesn't exist. 

RomneyCare Rewritten

Romney went a step or two too far in his claims about the Massachusetts health insurance reform he signed into law.

Romney: And since we’ve put our plan in place last April, we’ve now had 300,000 people who were uninsured sign up for this insurance. Private insurance.

We looked into this boast previously, when Romney said the figure was 200,000, and we found that it was not known how many truly had been uninsured versus how many had dropped other policies in favor of the state's offerings. Dick Powers, a spokesman for the Commonwealth Connector, the agency charged with implementing the health plan, told us that "certainly there are people who didn’t have insurance and people who did." 

The Connector's Web site, which does say it expected 300,000-plus to be enrolled by Jan. 1, 2008, estimates that that number includes "over half" of those who didn't have insurance before the state plan was implemented (an estimate that would put the previously uninsured at about 200,000). But we couldn't find a concrete number of how many of the uninsured have gained coverage under the state's health plan. The state agency that annually determines the number without health insurance doesn't have such up-to-date figures. The Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance Policy found that 395,000 people in the state didn't have insurance between January and July 2006 (pre-reform), and it credited the state's health care plan for a drop of 40,000 of the uninsured by the same time period in 2007. It's likely that many more have signed up since then, as the deadline for getting insurance under the state mandate was Dec. 31, 2007.

Romney was also incorrect to say all of the 300,000 had signed up for "private insurance." Actually, most of them gained state-subsidized coverage. The Connector reports that "some 100,000 will be added to private commercial insurance and over 200,000 will enroll in subsidized or partially-subsidized state programs," including the state Medicaid and SCHIP programs. 

U.S. “Best” Health Care System?

Giuliani said the U.S. has "the best health care system in the world" because it is private:

Giuliani: The reality is that, with all of its infirmities and difficulties, we have the best health care system in the world. And it may be because we have a system that still is, if not wholly, at least in large part still private.

Fred Thompson and others at the debate agree with the "best health care system" assessment, which is an article of faith for many Americans. We won't quibble about which "system" is best, but we do note that the U.S. decidedly does not have the best health care outcomes.

The U.S. scores poorly on a number of crucial indicators. The World Health Organization ranked it 37th in health care performance in its 2000 World Health Report, just below Costa Rica. The CIA World Factbook rates the U.S. lower than France, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union average, among others, for both life expectancy and infant mortality (note that most of those countries use a form of the GOP-dreaded "socialized medicine.") A 2006 study of infant mortality rates by the charitable group Save the Children found that the U.S. was tied for second-to-last place among industrialized nations.
Warring Words
Former governors Huckabee and Romney sparred over what each of them had said previously about the war in Iraq. Both, as it turns out, denied views that they had, in fact, expressed. Last night, Huckabee said he supported the surge before Romney did:

Huckabee: I supported the president and the war before you did. I supported the surge when you didn’t.

Wrong. Romney first came out in support of a surge on Jan. 10, 2007, just before President Bush spoke to the nation on the topic. Romney said in a statement that "I believe securing Iraqi civilians requires additional troops." 

Huckabee, speaking on MSNBC two weeks later, on Jan. 24, wasn't so enthusiastic:

Huckabee (MSNBC, Jan. 24) : I’m not sure that I support the troop surge, if that surge has to come from our Guard and Reserve troops, which have really been overly stretched.

Huckabee had other opportunities in January 2007 to express an opinion on the surge, but he gave vague answers, often saying that the president was bold to make the decision without expressing his own opinion on the plan. E.J Dionne of The Washington Post called it "loyal distance" in a Jan. 16 column. This stance was illustrated on Fox & Friends on Jan. 11:

Huckabee (Fox & Friends, Jan. 11): Well, it’s a pretty gutsy thing for the president to do, first of all, to say that there have been mistakes. And then to say we’re going to put more troops in I mean, he’s putting a lot of things on the line.

mitt.mikeLater in the exchange, Romney countered Huckabee's charge that he had supported a timed withdrawal:

Romney: I do not I do not support and have never support a timed withdrawal. So that’s wrong, Governor. You know, it’s it’s really helpful if you talk about your policies and the things you believe and let me talk about my policies. And my policy is I’ve never talked about a time withdrawal with a date certain for us to leave.

Huckabee wins this one. It's true that Romney has never cited a date certain for pulling out the troops. But he has said that "there's no question" there would have to be a timetable, it would just be kept hush-hush. Here's what he told ABC's "Good Morning America" in an April 2007 interview:

Robin Roberts, ABC News: Do you believe that there should be a, a timetable in withdrawing the troops?

Romney: Well, there’s no question but that the president and Prime Minister al Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you’re gonna be gone.

Also, in September at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, Romney described a three-step plan for withdrawing the troops, saying that U.S. forces could move to a “support role” in 2008 and that ultimately “our troops are out of Iraq and are available if absolutely needed.

Maybe in the Afterlife

In trying to lecture Ron Paul about the history of Islamic terrorism, Romney gets a demerit for saying:

Romney: I’d read their writings. I’d read what they write to one another, and that’s why when someone like Sayyid Qutb lays out the philosophy of radical jihadism and says we want to kill Anwar Sadat when there’s the assassination of Anwar Sadat, it has nothing to do with us.

Qutb was a prominent Islamic writer and intellectual whose ideas, including the concept of jihad, are cited as an early influence on modern Islamic extremism. But his main antagonist was the government of Gamal Abdul Nasser, Sadat’s predecessor. Qutb was executed in 1966, four years before Sadat became president and 15 years before his assassination. Huckabee correctly noted this fact later in the exchange.

And That’s Not All…

We have other quibbles, some of them old. For instance, when Giuliani said yet again that New York “was not a sanctuary city” when he was mayor, we reminisced about our article from less than a month ago, in which we said that in a Congressional Research Service report, New York’s policies were found to be similar to those of other sanctuary cities, including those that used that very term.

Finally, we were curious about Romney’s statement that he’d be “honest” with the American people and tell them that “we can’t become energy independent in 10 years.” He’s right, of course. In fact, the Energy Information Administration projects that even in 2030 the net imported share of energy used in the U.S. will be about 29 percent, just 1 percentage point lower than the share in 2006. But we just wonder what’s led Romney down the path of realism here, when just last week he was telling us in an ad that “in the next 10 years, we’ll see more progress, more change than the world has seen in the last 10 centuries.” Not in the energy area, evidently.

– by Viveca Novak, with Brooks Jackson, Justin Bank, Jess Henig, Emi Kolawole, Joe Miller and Lori Robertson


Massachusetts Commonwealth Connector. “About the Connector: Overview.” http://www.MAHealthConnector.org, 6 Dec. 2007.

Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “HCFP Survey Finds 40,000 Decrease in State’s Uninsured.” 27 Aug. 2007

World Health Organization. “World Health Report 2000.” 21 Jun. 2000.

CIA World Factbook. “Rank Order – infant mortality rate.” 13 Dec. 2007.

CIA World Factbook. “Rank Order – life expectancy at birth.” 13 Dec. 2007.

Save the Children. “State of the World’s Mothers 2006.” 9 May 2006.

Kaiser Family Foundation. “The Uninsured: A Primer.”

Snyder, Lynn Page. “The Uninsured: Myths and Realities.” Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 2001.

Dubay, Lisa, John Holahan and Allison Cook. “The Uninsured and the
Affordability of Health Insurance Coverage
.” Health Affairs. Nov. 2006.

Department of Defense, “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by
Regional Area and by Country
,” September 30, 1989. January 6, 2007.

Department of Defense, “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by
Regional Area and by Country
,” September 30, 1993. January 6, 2007.

Department of Defense, “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by
Regional Area and by Country
,” September 30, 2001. January 6, 2007.

Fred Kaplan, “The Flaw in Shock and Awe,” Slate.com. March 26, 2003.

NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, “Newsmaker: John McCain.” November 6, 2003.

Fox News Sunday, “Transcript, Sen. John McCain on Fox News Sunday,”
December 6, 2004.

Martin, Jonathan. “Romney concedes Iraq ‘a mess,’ describes three-step plan.” Politico.com, 3 Sept. 2007.

“Good Morning America.” ABC News, transcript, 3 Apr. 2007.

Top 20 PAC Contributors to Federal Candidates

December 19, 2007

From Opensecrets.org

Top 20 PAC Contributors to Federal Candidates, 2007-2008*

PAC Name Total Amount Dem Pct Repub Pct
Operating Engineers Union $1,417,675 86% 14%
Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $1,097,950 98% 2%
American Bankers Assn $1,039,370 40% 60%
Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union $1,017,000 97% 3%
AT&T Inc $1,010,550 39% 61%
National Beer Wholesalers Assn $1,003,500 52% 48%
Laborers Union $974,000 91% 9%
American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees $896,636 99% 1%
Credit Union National Assn $874,849 59% 41%
American Assn for Justice $833,000 96% 4%
National Air Traffic Controllers Assn $823,900 77% 23%
Air Line Pilots Assn $821,000 86% 14%
General Electric $793,500 49% 51%
United Parcel Service $787,787 42% 58%
National Assn of Realtors $780,000 53% 47%
National Assn of Home Builders $763,000 44% 56%
Plumbers/Pipefitters Union $706,800 93% 7%
American Hospital Assn $706,080 62% 38%
International Assn of Fire Fighters $704,800 75% 25%
American Crystal Sugar $689,000 66% 34%

Totals include subsidiaries and affiliated PACs, if any.

*For ease of identification, the names used in this section are those of the organization connected with the PAC, rather than the official PAC name. For example, the “Coca-Cola Company Nonpartisan Committee for Good Government” is simply listed as “Coca-Cola Co.”

Based on data released by the FEC on Monday, October 29, 2007.

Democrats Debate in Iowa

December 18, 2007

From FactCheck.org:

Richardson stands out for exaggerated and inaccurate claims.


In the final Democratic debate in Iowa, we found:

  • Richardson claimed “enormous progress” in New Mexico education, when in fact the state’s eighth-grade reading scores have slipped and remain among the worst in the U.S.

  • Richardson exaggerated the extent to which his state’s teacher salaries increased.

  • Richardson said one-third of U.S. health care spending goes to “administration and bureaucracy,” but Medicare officials put the figure at 7.4 percent.

  • Dodd criticized “the Chinese government” for slave labor, when in fact it just sentenced a slaver to death.

  • Dodd said University of Iowa costs have gone up 141 percent in six or seven years; we find they rose 81 percent.
  • Obama claimed Medicare would save “a trillion dollars” if fewer Americans were obese. We find little support for that figure.




This was the final debate among Democratic candidates prior to the Iowa caucuses. It was held Dec. 13, sponsored by the Des Moines Register and televised on national cable networks.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson added to his string of inflated, false or dubious claims.

School Puffery

On education, Richardson once again repeated his unsubstantiated claim that U.S. students rank 29th in the world in math and science, which we first debunked in September. And he made these inflated claims about his own record on education:

richardsonRichardson: Well, we’ve made enormous progress in my state. We were 49th in the world in – in the country in teacher salaries. We’re 28th today. Educational achievement has increased.

The salary claim is not true, according to the National Education Association’s Rankings & Estimates report. Pay has improved, but not that much. New Mexico’s teacher pay ranking was 44th the year before he took office and now is 36th, according to the most recent report.

It’s true that educational achievement has increased since Richardson took office in 2003, but not by much. And in the case of reading scores for eighth-graders, the state has actually lost ground. In 2002, for example, 36 percent of New Mexico eighth-graders scored below basic levels in reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This year it was even worse; 38 percent failed to achieve basic reading competency. That’s hardly “enormous progress,” and New Mexico remains in the national test-score basement.

The state’s eighth-graders were in a statistical tie with five other states for next to last among the 52 states and jurisdictions covered. Their reading scores weren’t statistically different from those of Mississippi or Alabama. Only the District of Columbia scored significantly worse.


A Shaky Claim on Health Spending

Richardson used a questionable figure on health care costs, saying that “one-third” of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care “goes to administration and bureaucracy.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does project that health care spending in the U.S. will be more than $2.2 trillion in 2007. But the figure for administrative spending given by CMS’ National Health Expenditure Data tables is far lower than one-third. The data show 7.4 percent of all national health expenditures in 2007 will go to “program administration and net cost of private health insurance.” (Net cost is the difference between benefits and premiums.)

Richardson’s statistic does have some support, however. A survey conducted by PNC Financial Services Group, which says it’s “a leading provider of electronic financial services to the health care industry,” said that nearly a third of expenditures went to administration. But that finding, released this year, was merely the opinion of the 200 hospital and insurance company executives queried. “There was no hardcore data or a number that they have,” confirmed PNC spokeswoman Amy Vargo.

Also, a 2003 article in the New England Journal of Medicine said that in 1999, 31 percent of health care expenditures went to administration. The authors included indirect costs, such as an estimate for the time physicians spend on administrative work.

Greenhouse Gasbag

Richardson blithely claimed he would slash greenhouse gases:

Richardson: Also, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and I would do so by 90 percent with a cap-and-trade program.

What Richardson didn’t say is that he isn’t promising to achieve that 90 percent reduction until 2050, a detail we found on his Web site. Richardson didn’t specify what his plan would do to the prices of electricity, manufactured goods and so on, saying only that he would be “asking the American people to sacrifice a little bit.” But according to one recent estimate, a less ambitious plan now pending in the Senate could cost the average household the equivalent of $800 to $1,300 a year in today’s dollars by 2015. That’s just one guess, of course. But there’s little doubt it would require more than “a little bit” of sacrifice to accomplish a 90 percent cut.


Dodd on Chinese Slaves

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd unfairly accused the “Chinese government” of using slave labor.

Dodd: When you have the Chinese government, as they just did, even make it more difficult for us to access even entertainment, not to mention, of course, the intellectual property theft that goes on on a daily basis; here you’re still using slave labor; you know, you manipulate your currency to give you a 40 percent advantage over our manufacturers and our people working in this country here, that’s no longer just a competitor. That’s a very different relationship.

Dodd is right that slave labor exists in China. In June 2007, a group of parents in Shanxi Province discovered that owners of many of the region’s brick kilns were kidnapping and enslaving children, forcing them to work up to 18 hours per day. But Dodd is wrong to suggest that the Chinese government is sanctioning slavery. Nearly 35,000 police officers descended on Shanxi province, raiding more than 7,500 work places. And less than a month after the story garnered international headlines, Chinese courts had sentenced 28 overseers at the kiln to prison and ordered another executed.

We agree that enslaving children is reprehensible, but Dodd was wrong to suggest that the Chinese government condones the practice.

Dodd Fails Math

Dodd also miscalculated when he said, “the cost right here at the University of Iowa has gone up 141 percent the last six or seven years.” The costs went up, but not nearly by that much.

In 2000, an in-state student could expect to pay $7,503 a year for tuition, room and board, and the school lists the current figure at $13,543. That’s an increase of 81 percent. For out-of-state students the cost of tuition, room and board has gone from $15,265 to $26,715, an increase of 75 percent.

Big Fat Trillion

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois used an estimate of uncertain provenance when discussing Medicare savings:

Obama: If we went back to the obesity rates that existed in 1980, that would save the Medicare system a trillion dollars.

Obama photoObama got this claim from a “candidate briefing book” put out by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank run by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. CAP cites the CDC and the Commonwealth Fund as sources for the estimate, but representatives from both organizations told us that the claim was unfamiliar to them.

We worked up our own back-of-the-envelope estimate, using official figures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially estimates that obesity cost $75 billion in 2003. The CDC also says that “approximately half” of the cost burden for both overweight and obese people is borne by Medicaid and Medicare. Obesity rates doubled between 1980 and 2000, also according to the CDC. So if obesity rates returned to “rates that existed in 1980” they would be cut in half, and that in turn would imply that Medicare and Medicaid together (not just Medicare alone) would save about a quarter of $75 billion, or roughly $18.75 billion per year.

– by Brooks Jackson, with Viveca Novak, Justin Bank, Jess Henig, Emi Kolawole, Joe Miller and Lori Robertson

Correction, Dec. 14: In our original article, we said that a New England Journal of Medicine piece was published in 1999. The article was about 1999 data, but it was published in 2003. We also mistakenly referred to Bill Richardson as the former governor of New Mexico.




Reading 2007 State Snapshot Report, National Assessment of Educational Progress

National Education Association, Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2006 and Estimates of School Statistics 2007. Washington: GPO, 2007.

National Education Association. Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2005 and Estimates of School Statistics 2006. Washington: GPO, 2006.

National Education Association. Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2004 and Estimates of School Statistics 2005. Washington: GPO, 2006.

National Education Association. Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2003 and Estimates of School Statistics 2004. Washington: GPO, 2006.

National Education Association. Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2002 and Estimates of School Statistics 2003. Washington: GPO, 2006.

Tuition Rates Schedule 2000, University of Iowa Archives.

Estimated Costs, 2007-08, University of Iowa Website.

Prepared Statement of Anne E. Smith, Ph.D. at the Legislative Hearing on America’s Climate Security Act of 2007, S.2191 of the Committee on Environment and Public Works United States Senate 8 Nov 2007

“Text of statement release by VNS after decision not to release exit poll results.” The Associated Press. 5 Nov. 2002.

Delaware Senate Exit Poll Results. 6 Nov. 1996. CNN. 13 Dec. 2007.

Exit Polls. 6 Nov. 1996. CNN. 13 Dec. 2007.

Elegant, Simon. “Slave Labor in China Sparks Outrage.” Time 20 June 2007.

French, Howard W. “Child slave labor revelations sweeping China.” International Herald Tribune 15 June 2007.

Schearf, Daniel. “China Kiln Worker Sentenced to Death in Slave Labor Case.” Voice of America 17 July 2007.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “NHE Projections 2006-2016, Forecast summary and selected tables,” updated 21 Feb. 2007.

PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. “PNC Health Care Industry Study: Reducing U.S. Health Care Costs Through Electronic Claims and Payment Processing, 2007 Study Highlights,” 2007.

Woolhandler, Steffie, et. al. “Costs of Health Care Administration in the United States and Canada.” The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 349: 768-775, 21 Aug. 2003.

Shopping in (Partisan) Style

December 17, 2007

From Opensecrets.org:

Shopping in (Partisan) Style
Capital Eye’s holiday guide to buying blue or red.

December 13, 2007 | If you’re looking for that perfect gift for your loved one this holiday season…we at Capital Eye can’t help you out. But if you’re looking for a gift from a retailer that shares your political ideology, then look no further.Retailers, just like many other industries, actively make campaign contributions, revealing a bit about the company’s political leanings—or at least those of the employees who give at least $200 of their hard-earned money to political campaigns. Until this year, retailers overall had given more money to Republicans, who tend to be more in line with the pro-business and anti-union policies that retailers support. In the 2006 election cycle, employees and PACs in the industry gave $13.2 million to federal candidates, parties and PACs, 58 percent of which went to Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. In the first nine months of this year, however, Democrats received 52 percent of the $6.9 million from the industry.

The presidential candidates have received $2.1 million of that total, with Democrats collecting 64 percent of retailers’ donations. Hillary Clinton collected the most of any candidate at $631,800, while Republican Rudy Giuliani led his party with $270,800 in receipts.

The biggest contributor in the retail industry is also the world’s biggest retailer, Wal-Mart. Employees of the big-box retailer, which stayed out of politics until it started getting criticism for its treatment of its employees, has given $727,830 so far this year, 60 percent of which went to Republicans. Behind Wal-Mart are Home Depot and Target, both of which also support the GOP financially.

The employees and political action committee of Gap clothing store have supported Democrats both cycles, by contrast, which didn’t surprise Gap shopper Maura Halpern. “I’d associate them with corporate social responsibility. They try to reach out to the community,” Halpern, a graduate student, said as she shopped at a Gap in Arlington, Va., for winter scarves and gear this week. She added that the political leaning of a retailer would definitely play a role in her decision to shop there. “I’m a Democrat, and I would want to align myself with a store that shares my beliefs,” she said.

Another Gap shopper, however, predicted that the chain’s employees supported Republicans because its “prices are kind of high” but said political leaning didn’t matter much to her. “Does anyone ever think if retailers lean left or right?” asked Maryland resident and police officer Deborah Tyler, who was shopping this week for her 8-year-old daughter at GapKids. “I’m just in a crunch and I need a holiday outfit quick.”

The retail industry also spends money on shaping policy in another way—through lobbying the federal government. So far this year, retailers have spent $9.5 million to lobby on Capitol Hill, pushing for tax cuts that induce consumer spending and opposing tightened port security that would limit imports. Much of the industry also supports bankruptcy reform that makes it harder for consumers who have declared bankruptcy to escape entirely from their debt. The National Retail Federation this year pushed for tax relief for small businesses in conjunction with raising the minimum wage to $7.25. Retailers were also concerned about provisions of this year’s immigration bill, including what they said was a burdensome requirement that businesses verify their employees’ citizenship through a complex electronic system.

For some holiday shoppers, a retailer’s political leaning is less important than its stance on certain issues, said Rob Eelkema, a resident of Alexandria, Va., and software salesman who was shopping this week for gifts from Macy’s for his wife and kids. Eelkema said he wasn’t surprised that employees at Macy’s, which he called “Big Business,” gave Republicans 61 percent of their $32,700 in contributions. As someone who’s not a party-line voter, Eelkema said he’d be more interested in whether a company was environmentally friendly. But ultimately, he said, he wouldn’t take the time to check the company’s stance on issues. “You don’t go and look up Macy’s and see what they support. I just want to make it easy to go shopping,” he said.

However, if you’d like to buy blue or red this holiday season, use the following information about popular retailers from the Center for Responsive Politics as your guide:

Barnes and Noble
2006 total contributions: $156,180 (84 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $55,067 (100 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat John Edwards
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $20,000

Bed Bath & Beyond
2006 total contributions: $100,800 (91 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $33,200 (87 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Rudy Giuliani
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

Best Buy
2006 total contributions: $134,300 (87 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $31,175 (64 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Rudy Giuliani
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $235,000

2006 total contributions: $9,600 (54 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $1,350 (100 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: None
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

Circuit City Stores
2006 total contributions: $4,300 (72 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $2,750 (100 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

2006 total contributions: $3,000 (67 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $300 (100 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: None
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

Costco Wholesale
2006 total contributions: $166,150 (87 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $77,190 (98 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

2006 total contributions: $250,900 (76 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $68,550 (72 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $100,000

Hallmark Cards
2006 total contributions: $230,170 (78 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $66,350 (66 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $200,000

Home Depot
2006 total contributions: $1,119,360 (77 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $510,050 (57 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $570,000

Limited Brands
2006 total contributions: $408,200 (76 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $228,100 (80 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $360,000

Linens N Things
2006 total contributions: N/A
2008 total contributions: $2,500 (92 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Rudy Giuliani
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

2006 total contributions: $18,150 (79 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $23,150 (71 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $20,000

2006 total contributions: $130,200 (66 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $32,700 (61 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Mitt Romney
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $40,000

2006 total contributions: $5,550 (77 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $2,725 (91 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain (tie)
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $45,000

Sears Holdings Corp (parent of K-Mart)
2006 total contributions: $450,550 (66 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $89,450 (52 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Mitt Romney
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $140,746

2006 total contributions: $663,140 (73 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $277,400 (72 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Rudy Giuliani
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $100,000

Toys R Us
2006 total contributions: $2,100 (72 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $250 (100 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

2006 total contributions: $1,781,800 (71 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $727,830 (60 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $685,000