FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Sat, 18 Apr 2015 13:19:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 FlackCheck Video: Rand Paul Announcement http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/flackcheck-video-rand-paul-announcement/ Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:09:06 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94373 Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul became the second major Republican candidate to declare that he will run for president. Paul made the announcement April 7.

This “Campaign Watch” video from FactCheck.org’s sister website, FlackCheck.org, covers some claims made by Paul that we fact-checked before and after he made his announcement.

]]> Santorum and the EPA’s Mercury Rule http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/santorum-and-the-epas-mercury-rule/ Fri, 17 Apr 2015 18:44:46 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94273 Rick Santorum misrepresented the Environmental Protection Agency’s impact analysis of a new agency rule that would reduce power plant emissions of mercury and other toxins:

  • Santorum falsely claimed that the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis assumed hundreds of thousands of pregnant women eat six pounds of fish caught in lakes per week, potentially exposing their unborn children to high levels of mercury. Actually, the EPA assumption was far lower, about 0.1 pounds per week on average.
  • He also misstated the effects of mercury on IQ levels. He said the EPA calculates that the children of pregnant women who consume six pounds of lake fish per week would suffer a “.009 point reduction in their IQ.” That figure — .009 — is what the EPA says would be the reduction in the amount of IQ loss under one emissions-reduction scenario, not the expected IQ loss without the emissions reduction.
  • Santorum said the “direct health benefit” of lowering mercury emissions is $6 million, referring to the EPA estimate for the reduction in IQ loss. That does represent the high-end of EPA’s estimate, but he ignores the associated health benefits from reducing pollutants other than mercury. The EPA places the total benefit of the rule at between $37 billion and $90 billion per year.

What Is MATS?

The EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, was finalized in February 2012 and takes effect in April 2015. (The rule could be derailed by a Supreme Court case that is expected to be decided later this year, as we will explain later.)

The rule requires reductions in the volume of various emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants with a capacity of at least 25 megawatts; it includes mercury and other metals (arsenic, chromium and nickel), as well as “acid gases” such as hydrochloric acid and hydrofluoric acid. Once all plants are in compliance, mercury emissions will drop under the rule by about 75 percent, from 26.6 tons to 6.6 tons per year, according to the EPA. The technology used to reduce mercury and other emissions will produce so-called “co-benefits” by reducing sulfur dioxide and PM2.5 (tiny particles under 2.5 micrometers in size) — those pollutants, however, are not covered specifically by the rule.

SciCHECKinsertThe EPA estimates that this rule will affect 1,400 individual electric generators at 600 power plants. About one quarter of the global human-caused mercury emissions come from combustion of coal; other major sources around the world include small-scale gold mining and cement production. North America as a whole accounted for only about 3.1 percent of the global emissions in 2013, according to a United Nations Environment Programme report.

Mercury can stay in the atmosphere for a year, but once it descends to ground level it can enter lakes, rivers and the ocean, where it can be converted to methylmercury. Methylmercury can “bioaccumulate,” or build up in the tissues of fish, which humans (and other animals) then eat. Small children and pregnant women are at particular risk from this buildup in fish, as it can affect development of the nervous system.

It is this benefit — reducing mercury exposure for pregnant women and unborn children — that Santorum, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, discussed in his speech at an event in Iowa called “Inside Sources Road to 2016: Informing the Energy Debate” (starting at the 55:00 mark).

Conflated Studies, Fish Consumption and the Cato Institute

Santorum argued that the cost of the EPA rule vastly outweighs the benefits, and he falsely accused the EPA of basing its cost-benefit analysis on a hypothetical population of pregnant women who eat massive amounts of fish.

Santorum, April 9: And here’s the calculation [EPA officials] made. The average woman in America consumes five ounces of ocean and lake fish a week. … This is their assumption: that pregnant women in America will consume not five ounces, but six pounds! Six pounds … that they caught themselves.

The Regulatory Impact Analysis does not make that assumption. In fact, EPA used an average consumption of 8 grams per day of fish (about 0.12 pounds per week), and included women in households where anyone engaged in fishing activity at some point in a given year. Ninety-five percent of such women consume less than 25 grams per day, or 0.39 pounds per week.

So where did his “six pounds” number come from?

A spokesman for Santorum referred us to a March 23 Wall Street Journal op-ed by attorney Brian Potts as the source of the former Pennsylvania senator’s remarks. That op-ed claims that EPA says 6 percent of all pregnant women in the U.S. — with higher numbers in certain states, such as 15 percent in Wisconsin and 21 percent in Minnesota — “subsist primarily by catching and eating as much as six pounds of lake fish a week.” Potts, the author of that article, told us that his analysis was based on a brief filed to the Supreme Court by the Cato Institute. That brief criticizes certain parts of EPA’s analysis, and in doing so inaccurately conflates two separate studies.

The first of the studies Cato cites — an EPA “Technical Support Document” on mercury risks — was used as part of the EPA’s initial “appropriate and necessary” finding that paves the way for the agency to regulate various pollutants. This document is used by the EPA to show that some group of people might suffer harm, and thus EPA should regulate the pollutant in question. The analysis focused only on “high-end” subsistence fishers as a way to show that there could be a public health hazard from mercury.

That analysis said that the top 1 percent of female subsistence fishers, or the very highest end of all consumers, would eat about six pounds of fish per week. The average consumption among all subsistence fishers in the study is 0.6 pounds per week.

The second study, the EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis on the MATS rule, uses far lower numbers for fish consumption in order to estimate benefits across a much larger population (all recreational angler households). Cato cites that document in regard to the negative effects of mercury consumption — the loss of IQ points and associated income — as if it focused on the same population as the other analysis on high-end fishers.

The conflation of those two reports — one study specifically on high-end subsistence fishers with another that estimates risk across “all recreational freshwater anglers” in the contiguous U.S. — is the source of Santorum’s statements regarding fish consumption.

EPA confirmed this to us in an email, saying: “The 6 pounds of fish consumption per week is the consumption rate from the Mercury Risk Assessment, which focused on highly exposed subsistence fishers. This consumption rate was not used in the [Regulatory Impact Analysis] to estimate the benefits of the actual regulation.”

Mercury and IQ Losses

Santorum went on to discuss the potential effects of consuming mercury in fish, again focusing on the false notion that the analysis concerned high-end subsistence fisherwomen:

Santorum, April 9: So women in America, 6 percent of all women in America — they concentrated in around the Great Lakes area, so if you’re a Minnesotan woman, 21 percent of Minnesota women who are pregnant, fish for six pounds of food a week that they consume. … These fisherwomen who are out there on Lake Superior catching fish, filleting it and eating it themselves, they’re going to pass on mercury to their children. And that mercury passed on to their children will produce — ready for this? — a .009 point reduction in their IQ.

The EPA calculated how many children were exposed to mercury from fish based on the number of anglers in each state, total population of the states and numbers of pregnant women. The agency calculated that, using 2005 as its “base case,” a total of 239,174 children would be exposed prenatally. This is where Santorum’s “6 percent” number came from, as that represents approximately 6 percent of all births across the United States in 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. (The same is true for his Minnesota-specific number.)

The EPA does not claim that 6 percent of all births were to women who catch six pounds of fish each week and consume it themselves. As we noted above, the consumption rates in the Regulatory Impact Analysis are actually far lower (0.12 pounds per week), and include all women who live in a household where any resident engages in fishing at least once in a year.

The source of Santorum’s mistake, again, is the Cato Institute’s conflation of two study populations. The Cato brief says: “[T]he agency estimated the number of children who would be born to the hypothetical high-end self-caught fish-consuming female populations,” and notes the EPA arrived at a total of about 240,000.

That is incorrect. The 240,000 number represents all recreational angler households, not those high-end consumers from the earlier analysis. In fact, the EPA told us that the IQ analyses in the Regulatory Impact Analysis “did not include any analysis of subsistence level consumption. In other words, for the RIA, we did not assume that any pregnant women eat 6 pounds of fish per week.”

The IQ loss Santorum cites is actually a reduction in lost IQ, not the full loss itself. (The Wall Street Journal op-ed makes the same mistake.) In other words, there will still be an IQ loss due to mercury, but it won’t be quite as large because of the reductions in mercury emissions, EPA estimates. Under one scenario, using 2005 as a “base case,” the reduction in lost IQ is indeed close to .009 points per exposed child. Santorum should actually have used an even lower number, however: The scenario that concerns implementation of the MATS rule and uses 2016 as the “base case” showed a reduction in IQ loss of .00209 points per child.

Santorum then went on to mischaracterize the effect of IQ losses and the reduced IQ losses under the MATS rule.

Santorum, April 9: EPA is saying this .009 point reduction in IQ is gonna cost them, these children, $2,000 in economic income over the course of their life, and you multiply that out, that’s $6 million. And for that, we need to spend $9.6 billion.

Santorum is correct about the $6 million figure — the EPA calculated a range for the economic value of reducing IQ loss under the MATS rule, from $500,000 to $6.1 million — though not for the reason he provides. The “$2,000 in economic income” he cites refers to an estimate in EPA’s analysis of the net loss of lifetime earnings per IQ point of $1,958.

Added up, the net losses for the 240,000 exposed children in 2016 would be between $22 million and $300 million. The MATS rule, EPA says, would reduce the IQ losses and thus cut up to $6.1 million from that total amount.

Also, it is worth noting that while the EPA found a tiny average reduction in IQ loss, it found a greater estimated reduction in certain populations.

Based on a review of other published studies of fish consumption, the EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis cites certain populations of the country that consume more than the 8 grams per day national average for recreational angler households, and the associated IQ losses are far greater. For example, the mean fish consumption among low-income African American recreational or subsistence fishers in the Southeast is estimated at 171 grams per day, or about 2.6 pounds per week. None of the other high-risk groups — low-income white recreational/subsistence fishers in the Southeast, low-income female recreational/subsistence fishers, Hispanic subsistence fishers, Laotian subsistence fishers and Great Lakes tribal groups — consumed more than 1 pound per week on average.

The EPA estimates that certain African American children born in 2016 in the Southeast could experience an IQ loss as a result of mercury of 7.7 points. The MATS rule would reduce that by an average of 0.176 points, EPA says — about 84 times the benefit seen in the overall population of recreational angler households.

Costs and Benefits

More generally, Santorum implies that the EPA cost-benefit analysis shows that the $9.6 billion rule will result in only $6 million in benefits. That’s misleading.

We take no position on the legal validity or health-related necessity of the rule and the agency’s analysis of its impact. But since Santorum used EPA’s number for the cost of the rule, he should also have used its number for the benefits, which the agency says would be between $37 billion and $90 billion per year.

“They have calculated that the health benefit has to do with pregnant women and their children,” Santorum said. But that’s just part of the story.

EPA lists a wide variety of health-related benefits (see page ES-10) that the agency says will add value to the MATS rule. Many of the benefits that have been “quantified” and “monetized” are related to the associated reduction in the concentration of fine particles suspended in the air, under 2.5 micrometers in size. Reductions in premature deaths related to PM2.5 make up the bulk of the total benefits. Other listed benefits include reductions in non-fatal heart attacks, emergency room visits for asthma, lost work days and hospital admissions. EPA lists other benefits that it hasn’t monetized or quantified.

The cost-benefit analysis has been a point of contention. The rule has faced legal challenges, which reached the Supreme Court in March. A decision is expected later this year. The issue before the court is whether the EPA “unreasonably refused to consider costs” in its rule-making, and critics say the co-benefits associated with PM2.5 reductions should not be included in a cost-benefit analysis.

Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.

– Dave Levitan

FactChecking Marco Rubio http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/factchecking-marco-rubio/ Mon, 13 Apr 2015 16:54:46 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94236 Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has joined what promises to be a crowded field of Republican candidates for president. Rubio informed his top donors of his decision on April 13, with a formal announcement planned for that evening in Miami.

We present here a sampling of some past claims from Rubio that we have reviewed on our site:

  • In a Feb. 27 speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Rubio made a pitch for reforming legal immigration, claiming “all” of the legal immigration in the U.S. was “based on whether or not you have a family member here.” That’s overstated. About two-thirds of the inflow of legal permanent residents in 2013 was based on family-sponsored immigration.
  • In that same speech, Rubio inaccurately described the controversial Common Core State Standards, calling it “a national school board that imposes a national curriculum on the whole country.” In fact, state leaders developed the Common Core standards, and local school officials set the curriculum.
  • In December, while criticizing Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, Rubio gave an incomplete description of the role American Alan Gross played in Cuba. Rubio said Gross, who was freed by Cuba as part of the diplomatic agreement, “was taken hostage because he was helping the Jewish community in Cuba have access to the Internet.” Gross was actually doing work as a subcontractor for a pro-democracy program funded by the U.S. government, work for which Gross was being paid about a half million dollars. Reporting by the Associated Press revealed that Gross was covertly bringing in technology known to be illegal in Cuba — equipment such as satellite phones and a chip that allows Internet use without detection.
  • In 2013, while making a pitch for a system that more closely tracks entry and exit of those in the U.S. on student visas, Rubio claimed that “some of the 9/11 attackers were on student visas,” adding, “By the way, they had overstayed those student visas.” The fact is, only one of the 19 hijackers came to the U.S. on a student visa, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, and that man did not overstay his student visa.
  • In 2011, Rubio offered a contradictory view of what constitutes a “cut” from Medicare. Rubio claimed that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan “doesn’t cut Medicare” but that the federal health care law does. In fact, Ryan’s plan left in place many of the Medicare “cuts” in the health care law.

Our file on Rubio dates to late 2009 when he opposed then-Gov. Charlie Crist in the Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat.  You can read our full file on Rubio here.

Stay tuned, as this current Republican field promises to grow much larger. As always, we will continue to monitor statements made by Rubio and all potential 2016 presidential candidates.

– Robert Farley

FactChecking Hillary Clinton http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/factchecking-hillary-clinton/ Sun, 12 Apr 2015 23:53:57 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94234 Hillary Clinton has made it official: She will run for president in the 2016 race.

Here’s a look back at some of the claims from Clinton that we’ve fact-checked over the years.

  • In March, Clinton brushed aside calls for her to turn over all her emails she sent as secretary of state — including personal emails — to an independent third party for review. Her office claimed government employees are granted privacy for personal emails, including on .gov accounts. But that’s not what State Department guidelines say. Instead they stipulate that there is “no expectation of privacy” for emails on a department email system. Clinton exclusively used a private email account at clintonemail.com while at the State Department and deleted about half of them because they were personal, she said.
  • In a 2008 debate with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, Clinton claimed that raising the cap on wages subject to Social Security taxes “would impose additional taxes on people who are, you know, educators here in the Philadelphia area or in the suburbs, police officers, firefighters and the like.” But the cap then was $102,000 a year, and few police officers or teachers earned that much.
  • In the same debate, Clinton said she believed that “market manipulation” was prompting an increase in fuel prices. She offered no evidence, and, in fact, the Federal Trade Commission had repeatedly looked into such allegations and hadn’t found anything to prosecute. On the campaign trail, she (and Sen. John McCain) proposed a “gasoline tax holiday” that economists said was unlikely to lower prices at the pump.
  • Clinton’s foreign policy experience has increased greatly since 2008, thanks to Obama nominating her for secretary of state. But during the presidential campaign, Clinton exaggerated her foreign policy resume in an attempt to contrast it with Obama’s experience. She said she “negotiated open borders” in Macedonia in 1999 “to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo.” The border had opened a day before she arrived. She also claimed to have “helped bring peace to Northern Ireland.” There is agreement that she helped, but Irish officials gave mixed reviews as to how helpful her actions were. She wasn’t directly involved in negotiations.
  • She also talked about a “dangerous” trip to Bosnia in March 1996, claiming that her aircraft made a corkscrew landing to avoid potential sniper fire. We wrote in 2008 that she failed to mention that the war had officially ended three months before she visited, and that she came with her daughter, who was 16 at the time, and two celebrities as part of a good-will tour. CBS News footage later revealed she arrived calmly with Chelsea in tow, and Clinton said she “misspoke” about the incident.
  • In early 2008, Clinton wrongly blamed the Bush administration for a nonexistent policy of requiring wounded soldiers to return enlistment bonuses if they were discharged. One incident in which an injured soldier received a letter seeking recoupment was against the official policy of the Defense Department.

There’s plenty more in our file on Clinton, which is like a trip down memory lane. But it has been a while since she last campaigned for office (2008), so much of our material is dated or no longer pertinent. For instance, Clinton said that her health care plan was the only one that would achieve universal coverage, when experts said it would come close but wouldn’t cover everyone. And during her last run, she repeatedly made the misleading claim that a 2005 energy bill included ”enormous giveaways to the oil and gas industries.” It actually increased taxes, on net, on oil and gas companies.

We expect to find more timely claims as we continue to monitor Clinton and all potential 2016 presidential candidates.

– Lori Robertson

FlackCheck Video: Ted Cruz Announcement http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/flackcheck-video-ted-cruz-announcement/ Fri, 10 Apr 2015 20:16:33 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94237 Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, in an address at Liberty University on March 23, became the first person to officially declare himself a candidate for president in 2016.

This “Campaign Watch” video from FactCheck.org’s sister website, FlackCheck.org, reviews several claims we fact-checked from Cruz’s announcement speech.

]]> Immigration Ad Distorts ‘Tax Implications’ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/immigration-ad-distorts-tax-implications/ Fri, 10 Apr 2015 18:43:37 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94190 A new TV spot claims Americans will be “stuck with the tax bill” for President Obama’s order giving legal status to millions of immigrants. What bill? Those immigrants will produce more in taxes than they will consume, according to the very authority cited by the ad’s sponsor.

The ad was announced April 7 by Californians for Population Stabilization, a group advocating tighter controls on immigration. It is running only in Iowa and on national cable channels, the group said. A spokesman said the cost of the ad buy is in the “six figures” and will run through April 15 — which is the deadline for filing federal income taxes.

The ad features images of Republican and Democratic presidential prospects with their mouths zippered shut. The narrator says they “don’t talk much about the tax implications” of Obama’s action granting eligibility for temporary legal status and work permits to nearly 5 million persons who have been living in the U.S. without permission.

The narrator goes on to say that “amnesty gives illegal aliens the right to take American jobs and apply for $1.7 billion in tax refunds, even though many illegal aliens never paid taxes, and struggling American workers will be stuck with the tax bill.” And it further says “your tax bill may depend” on rescinding the president’s order.

In its news release, the sponsor cites “Congressional Budget Office projections” as its authority for the claim about tax refunds. But the CBO’s analysis actually shows that the overall “tax implications” of Obama’s order would cut the federal deficit rather than creating any new “bill” for American taxpayers.

It’s true that the CBO estimated in a Jan. 29 letter that one of the budgetary effects of Obama’s action (and an earlier order granting temporary legal status to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children) would be to increase federal payments for Earned Income Tax Credits and per-child tax credits by a total of more than $10 billion spread over 10 years.

So where does the ad get the $1.7 billion figure? Some newly legal workers may be able to claim EITC refunds for prior years, provided they had worked and file tax returns. Some Republicans have called this an “amnesty bonus,” and we covered that in detail in a Feb. 20 item. According to a March 4 report by the McClatchy Washington bureau, the nonpartisan tax experts at the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation found that these retroactive refunds would amount to $1.7 billion over 10 years (nearly all in the first five years). It’s this so-called “amnesty bonus” that the CAP’s ad refers to, a CAP spokesman told us.

But that “bonus” and all the other tax refunds are only part of the overall budget effects.

The CBO’s Jan. 29 letter also estimated that the president’s order would bring in more than $22 billion in new tax revenue. Most of that would come from increased payments of Social Security taxes levied on newly reported earnings.

And the net result — even figuring in added federal payments for Affordable Care Act subsidies, Medicaid and other federal programs for which the newly legal residents could qualify — would be a decrease in federal deficits, totaling just under $7.5 billion over 10 years.

Where would the increased revenue come from? CBO, citing an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, said the biggest effect comes from newly legal immigrants openly declaring their income and paying taxes rather than hiding it for fear of discovery and deportation. Also, the JCT experts figure, wages for legal workers tend to be higher than for those in the underground economy. Any increase in reported wages results in higher payroll tax collections.

In short, CBO says the budgetary pluses of the president’s action will outweigh the minuses. But this ad tries to give viewers the opposite impression.

– Brooks Jackson





April 10: Iraq War, Trade, Oil Imports http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/april-10-iraq-war-trade-oil-imports/ Fri, 10 Apr 2015 18:35:15 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94400
Help Us Win a Webby http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/help-us-win-a-webby-2/ Thu, 09 Apr 2015 21:13:54 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94120 It’s Webby time again, and FactCheck.org is up for best Political Blog/Website.

The annual awards competition recognizes “the best of the Internet.” It’s the 19th year that the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences is awarding prizes.

Last year, we won both the Webby Award, voted on by a judging panel, and the Webby People’s Voice Award, which is determined by a public vote. We hope for a repeat.

You can help us win another trophy this year by voting for us in the Political Blog/Websites category. Use your email address to sign up and vote, or vote using your Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus account. Voting ends on April 23 at 11:59 p.m. PST. And if all goes well, we’ll have more good news to report when winners are announced on April 27.

But no matter what happens, we thank you for your support.




Rand Paul Revises History of Cheney Criticism http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/rand-paul-revises-history-of-cheney-criticism/ Thu, 09 Apr 2015 20:51:23 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94142 Sen. Rand Paul dismissed comments he once made about Dick Cheney’s motives for invading Iraq by claiming they were made “before I was involved in politics for myself.” That’s false. Paul made his remarks in a 2009 speech he delivered during a statewide tour he launched to raise his profile for his U.S. Senate race in 2010.

At a 2009 speech at Western Kentucky University, Paul questioned Cheney’s motives for supporting the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He said Halliburton — where Cheney was once CEO — got a “billion-dollar, no-bid contract” in Iraq and delivered “shoddy” work. He also noted that Cheney opposed invading Iraq in 1991 as President George H.W. Bush’s defense secretary, but supported it as President George W. Bush’s vice president in 2003, suggesting the policy change was done to help Halliburton.

Paul, April 7, 2009: There’s a great YouTube of Dick Cheney in 1995 defending Bush No. 1, and he goes on for about five minutes. He’s being interviewed, I think, by the American Enterprise Institute, and he says it would be a disaster, it would be vastly expensive, it’d be civil war, we would have no exit strategy. He goes on and on for five minutes. Dick Cheney saying it would be a bad idea and that’s why the first Bush didn’t go into Baghdad. Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton. Makes hundreds of millions of dollars, their CEO. Next thing you know, he’s back in government and it’s a good idea to go into Iraq.

Paul’s past criticism of Cheney, which was first reported last year by Mother Jones, came up during a lengthy interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on the day that the Kentucky senator entered the presidential race. As Hannity started to ask a question about the time “you took a shot at Dick Cheney,” Paul cut him off: “Once again, before I was involved in politics for myself. That was a long time ago.”

But that’s not accurate. Paul did not officially enter the 2010 Senate race until Aug. 5, 2009, but he was already in campaign mode when he spoke at Western Kentucky University.

The video of Paul’s speech was posted to YouTube on April 7, 2009, by a Paul supporter, and the description said, “Dr. Rand Paul spoke at the Kentucky Federation of College Republicans Western Kentucky University Chapter Meeting.” Several weeks earlier, Paul had told the Associated Press on Feb. 26, 2009, that he would consider running for Senate in Kentucky if then-Sen. Jim Bunning retired, and he began touring the state and giving speeches, including the one at Western Kentucky University.

In a speech on April 4, 2009 — three days before his critical comments of Cheney — Paul told a crowd of gun owners that he was on a speaking tour to introduce himself to voters and discuss his conservative libertarian views, which he described as different from those of Democrats and even many Republicans in Washington.

Paul, April 4, 2009: What I’m doing today and throughout the last several months and for the next year is traveling around Kentucky, trying to become better known around Kentucky. There’s rumors that Senator Bunning may not run for office again. He’s still says he’s running for office and for as long as he does I won’t oppose him. But if Bunning steps down there needs to be some true believer who runs for office. … [A]nd if I were to run for office, in the end I would run more as an independent than I would as a specific party person because I think it’s more important, the issues than the party.

He said something similar at Western Kentucky University shortly after he gave his critique of Cheney and Halliburton.

“[W]e will not get bigger if we do the same old message, and so that’s what I feel like my job is for the next six months or a year,” he told the students. “I’m going to be going around Kentucky and giving speeches like this and trying to promote change and growth in our party.”

This is not the first time that Paul has sought to dismiss controversial past statements by saying those statements were made before he got involved in politics for himself.

As we wrote, a TV ad quotes Paul as saying it’s “ridiculous to think that Iran is a real threat to our national security.” The ad doesn’t disclose that the quote was from 2007 and was made when Rand Paul was campaigning for his father, Ron, who was running for the Republican presidential nomination. Earlier in the Fox News interview, Hannity asked about that quote and Paul said, “I also wasn’t campaigning for myself, I was campaigning to help my father at the time.” That is accurate.

But it’s not accurate for Paul to dismiss his comments about Cheney with the same kind of response. And that’s exactly what he did when he said: “Once again, before I was involved in politics for myself.” That’s revising history.

Other Claims

There were a few other statements that Paul made in his interview with Hannity that were either wrong or didn’t tell the whole story.

Paul said his proposal for a 17 percent flat tax would help low-income areas, which is his opinion, and he gave some examples of poor areas that he thinks could benefit.

Paul, April 7: Like, for example, Detroit has 20 percent unemployment. It’s a disaster. Appalachia, my state, eastern Kentucky, has a large amount of poverty. No one’s come up with a way to fix it because we’re always trying to tax them and then give them back a little bit to help them.

Detroit had an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent, as of February, not 20 percent. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the city’s unemployment rate was above 20 percent for much of the recession. It was 22.3 percent when President Obama took office in January 2009, and it peaked at a staggering 28.4 percent in June 2009. But the last time it was above 20 percent was July 2013.

It’s true that Detroit’s unemployment rate for February is still more than double the 5.5 percent national rate. But Paul used outdated data and, in doing so, made the rate seem worse than it really is.

As for Kentucky Appalachia, it does have a high poverty rate. The average rate from 2009 to 2013 was 25.2 percent in Kentucky and averaged 17 percent throughout the entire 13-state region, according to the latest economic report by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Paul says “no one’s come up with a way to fix it,” but it should be noted that the rate has declined significantly since the commission was formed in 1965 under a federal law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The percentage of people in the Appalachian region living in poverty was 30.9 percent in 1960, and it dropped to 13.6 percent in 2000 before spiking again during the recession-wracked 2000s.

Paul also praised President Reagan’s tax cuts, but in doing so he overstated the number of jobs that were created during Reagan’s time in office.

In promoting his own tax-cut plan, Paul said Reagan “dramatically cut tax rates” and “tens of millions of jobs were created” — which would be more than 20 million jobs. This is an old claim from Paul and, as we have written before, there was a net total of 16.1 million new jobs created during Reagan’s eight years in office.

– Eugene Kiely

Ad Links Rand Paul to Obama on Iran http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/ad-links-rand-paul-to-obama-on-iran/ Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:48:32 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=94133 A conservative group welcomed Sen. Rand Paul into the presidential race with a TV ad that says he “supports Obama’s negotiations with Iran.” That’s misleading. Paul does support negotiating a nuclear deal, but he wants Congress to approve it — a major difference between the Republican senator and Democratic president.

Paul was one of 47 senators who signed a letter to Iranian officials warning that any deal reached between them and Obama could be undone by Congress or overturned by a future president. Obama later said he was “embarrassed” for those who signed the letter. Paul also is a cosponsor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 that seeks to provide Congress an up-or-down vote on any nuclear pact with Iran. Obama has threatened to veto the bill.

However, Paul also goes too far in his response to the ad when he says “almost every element of the ad is a lie.” The ad is correct when it says that Obama and Paul opposed “tough new sanctions on Iran.” In January, Paul opposed a Senate bill that sought to reimpose sanctions against Iran that were rolled back by Obama during negotiations and to add new sanctions if a deal fell through. Obama had threatened to veto such a bill.

The ad is being run by the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, a 501(c)4 group led by Rick Reed, a Republican strategist involved in the controversial Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad campaign in 2004 that attacked Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s military service. The group says it will spend $1 million to air the 30-second spot on broadcast television and Fox News this week in the first four early primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

The ad shows violent images of Iran and multiple on-screen pairings of Paul and Obama as the narrator says, “The Senate is considering tough new sanctions on Iran. President Obama says he’ll veto them, and Rand Paul is standing with him. Rand Paul supports Obama’s negotiations with Iran. But he doesn’t understand the threat.”

The video then cuts to an audio clip of Paul saying of Iran, “You know, it’s ridiculous to think that they’re a threat to our national security.”

“Rand Paul is wrong and dangerous,” the ad’s narrator concludes. “Tell him to stop siding with Obama, because even one Iranian bomb would be a disaster.” The ad ends with the image of an exploding nuclear bomb.

Paul on Negotiations

As the ad says, some in the Senate did consider new sanctions against Iran, and Paul opposed that effort. The bill, called the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, was introduced by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez.

In an interview with CQ Roll Call in January, Paul said he opposed the timing of the bill, fearing it might jeopardize the support of other members of the P5+1 partnership (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China — plus Germany).

Since late 2013, the P5+1 partners and Iran have been operating under an interim agreement that required Iran to freeze portions of its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from international sanctions. On April 2, the White House announced that the framework for a broader, 15-year deal had been hammered out, with the hope that a deal will be finalized by June 30.

“My fear is that in eagerness, you know, to put more sanctions on those who are overly eager … could get us to a point where there are only two solutions: either Iran gets a bomb or there’s war, whereas right now we have a third solution which is a little better,” Paul said in the CQ Roll Call interview. “I’ve been talking with many Republicans and many Democrats to try to try [sic] find a way forward that does not ruin the chance for negotiations. I voted for sanctions in the past with the intention and the hope that we could find a peaceful outcome to this where Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. My fear is that if new sanctions are placed on that, the sanctions coalition will break up.”

Paul added that while he did not support additional sanctions while a deal is being negotiated, he did support legislation that “[lets] Iran know that if they don’t comply with the current agreement, the interim agreement, that sanctions would be resumed. I think this a better way than placing new sanctions on. Then what would happen is you would have presumption of what is already out there, and it would be based on Iranian noncompliance instead of Congress setting new parameters.”

Paul echoed those sentiments during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing the following day, saying he did not necessarily oppose an agreement, but adding that he wanted Congress to have the final say on it.

Paul, Jan. 21: As we move forward, I have been one who says new sanctions in the middle of negotiations is a huge mistake and may well break up the sanctions coalition, may well drive Iran away from the table. I have been one who wants sanctions because I do not want war, frankly. … I think there are several of us on this side who do not blanket say no, we will not vote to approve an agreement. But we want you to know that we have the right to vote, so you come and talk to us, so you talk to the chairman.

Obama threatened to veto a bill that imposed new sanctions if it did pass, arguing that it could jeopardize negotiations with Iran. So, Paul was “standing with” Obama on that particular bill.

But contrary to the ad’s claim that Paul “supports Obama’s negotiations,” Paul has parted with the president over the need for congressional approval of a deal. Paul has insisted that Congress be given final say on the agreement, something Obama has opposed.

Paul was one of 47 Republicans who signed an open letter to “the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” penned by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton warning that any deal signed by Obama could be revoked by the next president and that future Congresses “could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” As we noted in March, Congress cannot change an executive agreement, but it can nullify parts of the deal through legislation if it has enough votes. Obama later said he was “embarrassed for” the senators who signed the letter, which he called “close to unprecedented.”

Although the letter was addressed to Iranian leadership, Paul told Secretary of State John Kerry in a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on March 11 that he was sending a message to the White House that a deal needed to be approved by Congress.

Paul, March 11: We want you to understand the separation of powers. If this agreement in any way modifies legislative sanctions, it will have to be passed by Congress. That’s why that I’ve supported Senator Corker’s legislation that says exactly this. … So why do I sign this letter? I sign this letter because I sign it to an administration that doesn’t listen, to an administration that, every turn, tries to go around Congress because you think you can’t get your way. The president says, “Oh, the Congress won’t do what I want, so I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got my phone. I’m going to do what I want.” The letter was to you. The letter was to Iran, but it should’ve been CC’d to the White House, because the White House needs to understand that any agreement that removes or changes legislation will have to be passed by us.

Paul also is a cosponsor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, a proposal backed by Menendez and Republican Sen. Bob Corker to hold an up-or-down vote on any nuclear pact with Iran. Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it passes, and White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the bill “could potentially interfere with the ongoing negotiations that are slated to continue through June.” The bill, so far, remains several votes shy of being veto-proof.

It remains unclear where Paul stands on the interim “framework” deal with Iran announced by the White House on April 2. While many potential (or declared) Republican presidential candidates were highly critical of the announced framework, Paul’s response has been more tempered. In an interview on the “Today” show on April 8, Paul said he was “somewhat skeptical” of the agreement, but said very little information about it has been shared and “I’m going to keep an open mind and look at the agreement.”

That measured response is a far cry from other potential GOP candidates like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who vowed to immediately nix the deal if they become president.

In an April 7 interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Paul said “almost every element of the ad is a lie. I mean, they say I’m helping the president. I’m actually one who has said to the president that this deal, when it becomes final, has to be finalized by Congress. And I’ve said I’ve done that to actually strengthen the president’s hand, but I do want him negotiating from a position of strength. … That’s what I’m trying to tell him, is that you’re going to have to bring a deal back to us.”

Added Paul, “I’m one of the ones who have said all along that Congress puts the sanctions on. I voted for the sanctions.”

We reached out to Paul’s office to see which sanctions he was referring to, but we did not hear back.

The record shows that on Dec. 1, 2011, Paul voted for sanctions against Iran in a separate amendment to a 2012 defense authorization bill. The amendment passed 100-0. But then he voted on Dec. 15, 2011, against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 conference report, which contained those sanctions against Iran. So, he voted to add sanctions to the bill, but ultimately voted against the larger bill. Paul also voted for the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act. It passed by voice vote in the Senate on May 21, 2012, and the Senate approved changes to it on Aug. 1, 2012, also by voice vote. Obama signed it on Aug. 10, 2012.

Iran a National Security Threat?

As for the audio of Paul saying Iran is not a threat to U.S. security, the ad does not make it clear that it is from a 2007 radio interview. At the time, Paul was campaigning for his father, Ron Paul, who was running for president.

Breitbart posted a link to the full 2007 radio interview of Paul.

Rand Paul, 2007: It’ll be interesting to see what happens, particularly the war issue. I think you’re right that the war has become so unpopular — 65 to 70 percent of people against it. And on the Republican side, not only do they not have any idea about ending the Iraq war, they want to invade Iran next. I tell people in speeches, I say we’re against the Iraq war, we have been from the beginning, but we’re also against the Iran war, you know, the one that hasn’t started yet. The thing is I think people want to paint my father into some corner, but if you look at it intellectually, look at the evidence that Iran is not a threat. Iran cannot even refine their own gasoline. Over fifty percent of their gasoline is imported from Europe. General [John] Abizaid, who’s no leftwing nut, was head of the theater over there, retires recently, and he says “Look, we should discourage them from having a nuclear weapon but if they should get one it is not necessary, they are not a threat to our national security. It’s not necessary to go to war with them.”

Host: The CIA’s own national assessment says they’re not going to have one for eight years.

Paul: Yeah, if we could just get Mike Huckabee to understand what that is — I’m not sure he knows what the National Intelligence Estimate is. But you’re right, even our own intelligence community’s consensus opinion now is that they’re not a threat. My dad says they don’t have an air force, they don’t have a navy. You know, it’s ridiculous to think that they’re a threat to our national security. It’s not even that viable to say they’re a national threat to Israel. Most people say Israel has a hundred nuclear weapons.

Paul was referring to a Sept. 17, 2007, address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in which retired Gen. John Abizaid said that the U.S. could “contain” Iran even if the country had “one or two nuclear weapons.” Abizaid went on to say that it is “likely” but “not inevitable” that Iran would develop the capability to build a nuclear weapon, and that the U.S. should “press the international community as hard as we possibly can and the Iranians to cease and desist on the development of a nuclear weapon. And we should not preclude any option that we may have to deal with it.”

But, Abizaid said, “There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran. Let’s face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union; we’ve lived with a nuclear China; we’re living with nuclear other powers as well. But I would tell you, I think it’s very, very important that we do what we can to prevent that from happening. And we should not underestimate our ability to do that.”

A second ad released by the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America features another clip of Paul saying, “Our national security is not threatened by Iran having one nuclear weapon.” According to a spokeswoman for the group, that Paul quote also dates to 2007.

Asked on the “Today” show about his 2007 quote, Paul said it was “a long time ago and events do change over long periods of time. So we’re talking about eight years ago, we’re talking about a time when I wasn’t running for office and I was helping someone else run for office. What I would say is that there has always been a threat of Iran gaining nuclear weapons and I think that’s greater now than it was many years ago. I think we should do everything we can to stop them.”

In the interview on Fox News, Hannity said he didn’t hear Paul saying “under no circumstances could we ever trust the Iranians with nukes.”

Paul responded, “No, we should not trust them with a nuclear weapon ever.”

– Robert Farley