Monday, October 18, 2010

Many Chamber ads attacking House Dems contain debunked falsehoods, distortions

The Washington Post

Last week I noted that the ads that have been bankrolled by Karl Rove's groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against Senate Dem candidates across the country have been widely debunked by independent fact-checkers for their multiple falsehoods and distortions.

Turns out the same is true of the Chamber's ads against House Democrats. These Chamber ads, which are running or have run in multiple districts across the country, contain many claims that are demonstrable distortions or have been repeatedly debunked as false by independent fact-checkers.

This is the side of this story that continues to unfold under the media radar. Much of the media focus has been on the high-profile Beltway spat between these groups and the White House and Dems over their undisclosed donors. But the ads themselves are not receiving anywhere near the high-profile media scrutiny that Dem claims about the Chamber have -- even though they constitute a massive national campaign flooding airwaves in multiple races that could tip the balance of power in Congress.

Here's a rundown of the Chamber ads attacking House Dems that contain the debunked claims:

(1) The Chamber is running or has run a cookie-cutter ad attacking Dems in many districts that contain core claims that have been cleanly debunked. There are versions of this ad targeting Dem Reps. Tom Perriello of Virginia, John Boccieri of Ohio, Earl Pomery of North Dakota, and Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio, as well as candidate Stephene Moore of Kansas.

All these ads claim that the Democrat in question supported to "gut Medicare by $500 billion," a reference to their support for health reform. But Politifact found that in reality, "the law does not take $500 billion out of the current Medicare budget." thoroughly debunked this claim, too.

(2) All of the above ads hammer the Dem by claiming that seniors in their states face "reduced benefits," thanks to the Dem in question, another reference to health reform. Each ad gives a different number of "reduced benefits," based on which state they're in, and each ad sources the Kaiser Family Foundation for the claim.

But Tricia Neuman, a vice president with Kaiser, flatly denies that her group found what these ads claim it did. The claim is based on this Kaiser chart that only details cuts to Medicare advantage under health reform -- and does not predict any reduced benefits. "That statement does not come directly from anything we've written," Neuman tells me. "It may mislead seniors enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans into thinking their benefits will be cut -- which, at this point, is not clear." Indeed, Neuman notes, some benefits could go up.

(3) A Chamber ad attacking Debbie Halvorson of Illinois claims she supported "government run health care." While this claim is not information-based, and hence is difficult to challenge directly, Politifact pronounced the assertion that health reform represents government run health care as "false," concluding that it "leaves in place the private health care system."

What's more, all of the cookie-cutter Chamber ads referenced above contain a version of that same claim.

(4) A Chamber ad attacking Dem Rep. Mark Critz of Pennsylvania claims that Critz "declined to take a position on the healthcare overhaul." This is partly true, in the sense that Critz didn't vote on the health bill. But Critz did come out out against the health reform bill in a statement, making the Chamber's claim misleading.

The ad also claims that Nancy Pelosi is "counting" on Critz. While this is also an information-free claim, the fact is that Critz voted against Wall Street reform and against the DISCLOSE Act, which, ironically enough, is enabling the right's massive non-disclosure ad campaign.

Again: An important part of this story, one that is going undercovered and passing entirely under the radar, is that all this undisclosed money is bankrolling an ad campaign that is flooding airwaves across the country with many distortions and flatly debunked claims. And this misinformation campaign could help decide who controls Congress next year.

By Greg Sargent | October 18, 2010; 12:51 PM ET

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