FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Fri, 22 May 2015 20:51:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 Clinton’s ‘Secret’ Email Accounts http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/clintons-secret-email-accounts/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/clintons-secret-email-accounts/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 20:22:13 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95552 The Republican National Committee thinks it has the smoking gun that proves Hillary Clinton used “multiple secret email addresses” as secretary of state. It doesn’t.

The RNC made its claim in a May 18 blog post hours after the New York Times published copies of emails that Clinton had sent and received when she was secretary. The emails displayed two accounts: hdr22@clintonemail.com and hrod17@clintonemail.com. That seemed to clearly contradict Clinton’s claim that she used only hdr22@clintonemail.com while in office, which was from January 2009 to February 2013.

But the Clinton campaign says there is a simple explanation for this apparent discrepancy: The emails published by the Times were printed out in 2014 after Clinton had left the State Department and after she had changed her email address, so the printed copies of emails she sent while in office display her new address (hrod17@clintonemail.com), even though they were originally sent under her old address (hdr22@clintonemail.com). We agree that this is possible.

The Clinton explanation passed two tests — including one conducted for us by Ray Tomlinson, the man who is widely credited with inventing email.

Tomlinson ran an optical character recognition on the PDF of the emails that the Times posted to its website, and what he found is consistent with the Clinton campaign’s explanation for what happened.

We at FactCheck.org also tested Clinton’s explanation. Our IT staff created originaluser@asc.upenn.edu and renamed it newuser@asc.upenn.edu. An email sent by originaluser@asc.upenn.edu printed out as if it had come from newuser@asc.upenn.edu after we changed the name of the email account.

Tom Conte, a professor at the Schools of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology and president of the IEEE Computer Society, said Clinton’s explanation is “technically possible” and that our test “proves it.”


As most know by now, Clinton did not use the government email system while secretary of state. Instead, she used a private server and email account. This unusual arrangement — first detailed March 2 by the New York Times — triggered a political firestorm.

Republicans have accused Clinton of seeking to avoid public disclosure of her emails on controversial issues, such as the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the temporary consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. For her part, Clinton has said that her email arrangements were a matter of convenience, and that the “vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses,” so they were preserved at the State Department.

The issue of how many private email accounts Clinton used was first raised by a special House committee investigating Benghazi.

On March 4, two days after the Times disclosed Clinton’s exclusive use of personal emails to conduct official business, the Select Committee on Benghazi said it was “in possession of records with two separate and distinct email addresses used by former Secretary Clinton and dated during the time she was Secretary of State.” At the time, the House committee declined our request to provide us with the second email address.

Why does it matter how many private email accounts Clinton had? The Republicans question whether Clinton has been forthcoming in turning over all the documents related to Benghazi. Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department in December 2014, her office confirmed after the Times story appeared.

The existence of hdr22@clintonemail.com has been public knowledge since March 2013, a month after she left office. But the existence of hrod17@clintonemail.com became public when the New York Times on May 18 and May 21 published copies of the printed emails.

On May 18, the RNC wrote that the emails published by the Times contradicted a claim by Clinton’s lawyer that she used only one @clintonemail.com email account as secretary of state. Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall sent a letter on March 27 to Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Benghazi committee, that said “ ‘hrod17@clintonemail.com’ is not an address that existed during Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.”

On May 20, House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman Matt Wolking wrote that Kendall’s response to the committee is “completely false.” He wrote, “The address hrod17@clintonemail.com did exist while she was Secretary of State, according to emails from 2011 and 2012 published by The New York Times on Monday.”

Conservative websites were abuzz with claims that Clinton was “caught in another email lie,” as Breitbart put it.

The Blaze embedded several emails (like the one below) into its news article and said, “Multiple emails show Clinton used account “hrod17@clintonemail.com” while serving in the Obama administration as secretary of state.”

Times Emails HRod17

But all is not what it seems.

What the Evidence Shows and Experts Say

When we contacted the Clinton campaign about the apparent discrepancy, we were referred to an explanation that was first contained in a Q&A issued by the campaign on March 10. The question and answer addressed the allegation, made by the Benghazi committee, that Clinton had two private email addresses:

Why did the Select Committee announce that she used multiple email addresses during her tenure?

In fairness to the Committee, this was an honest misunderstanding. Secretary Clinton used one email account during her tenure at State (with the exception of her first weeks in office while transitioning from an email account she had previously used). In March 2013, a month after she left the Department, Gawker published the email address she used while Secretary, and so she had to change the address on her account.

At the time the printed copies were provided to the Department last year, because it was the same account, the new email address established after she left office appeared on the printed copies as the sender, and not the address she used as Secretary. In fact, this address on the account did not exist until March 2013. This led to understandable confusion that was cleared up directly with the Committee after its press conference.

Kendall, in his letter to the committee, identified the new email address established in March 2013 as hrod17@clintonemail.com.

But why would the emails — including the one we display above — show hrod17@clintonemail.com as the sender if it came from hdr22@clintonemail.com? Is that even technically possible?

We consulted four computer experts, and all agreed that it was possible. There is one example in the trove of emails that the Times posted online that proves it is possible. That’s a May 6, 2011, email from Clinton to Jake Sullivan, who at the time was her deputy chief of staff and director of policy planning.

On page 31 of the New York Times‘ PDF of Clinton’s emails is a print copy of Clinton’s email to Sullivan that shows Clinton’s email address as hrod17@clintonemail.com (the one she says was created after she left office). But that same email also appears on page 35 of the PDF as part of an email exchange with Sullivan (who had responded to her), and the email address for Clinton in that case is displayed as hdr22@clintonemail.com.

“This string of email messages proves the Clinton team’s explanation is true,” said Conte, the president of the IEEE Computer Society.

The reason, he said, is simple: The hdr22@clintonemail.com address that is part of the email string is now static text, so it wouldn’t change. That means that the email originated from hdr22@clintonemail.com. But the address on the printed version of just Clinton’s email to Sullivan would be populated with the new email address because that is an active data field — giving the illusion that it came from hrod17@clintonemail.com.

We asked our IT staffers to see if they could recreate the same behavior, and they did. They created an email account called originaluser@asc.upenn.edu, exchanged emails with this author and then changed the name of the account to newuser@asc.upenn.edu. The emails were then printed out by the sender after the account was renamed. The results are below.

The first email sent on Thursday, May 21, at 12:26 p.m. displays originaluser@asc.upenn.edu as the sender, because it was part of an email string and was static text:


Original in email stringBut that same email appeared to be sent from newuser@asc.upenn.edu when it was printed out separately:



The steps that we followed for the test were the same as those suggested by Tomlinson, who was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame for inventing email.

Tomlinson conducted a separate test that weighs in support of Clinton’s claim. He used optical character recognition (OCR) to convert the Times‘ PDF of the Clinton emails into searchable text. He said “the 37 messages that were purportedly sent from H have hrod17@clintonemail.com in the From: field. No such message is From: hdr22. hdr22 appears only in the From: field of 15 messages that were included in a received message. All such messages contained in replies to H are from hdr22 and no such message contained in replies to H are from hrod17.”

He said that outcome is consistent with the Clinton campaign’s “statement that the messages originally sent from H appear in the pdf as if they were sent from hrod17. There are no counterexamples.”

The RNC noted that IT expert Bruce Webster told the Daily Caller that Clinton’s explanation “made no sense.” But the conservative website also quoted Webster as saying it is possible with servers hosted by Microsoft Exchange — which, as it turns out, is the server that we used for our test.

Tomlinson initially also told us that the Clinton explanation was “not a completely natural outcome,” even if it is possible. But after we told Tomlinson of our test and sent him our results, he replied: “Your experiment may refute that last statement.”

This doesn’t prove, of course, that Clinton did not have more than one @clintonemail.com address while secretary of state. All four experts told us the only way to know for sure how many @clintonemail.com accounts Clinton had while in office is to conduct a forensic examination of her mail server. (Clinton has said she will not make her personal server available to the government or an independent third party.)

“The best way to obtain all of the facts about these emails would be for a third party forensic examiner to conduct an examination of Ms. Clinton’s mail server and desktop system,” said Jonathan Zdziarski, forensics expert and author of the book “iPhone Forensics: Recovering Evidence, Personal Data, and Corporate Assets.” “That could easily determine what email addresses existed at approximately what dates, possibly even when they were changed, as well as retrieve the original email envelopes and content.”

What we do know, however, is that the emails posted by the Times do not support the RNC’s claim that Clinton had “multiple secret email addresses” as secretary of state, and there is no evidence to contradict Clinton’s claim that she created hrod17@clintonemail.com after she left office.

— Eugene Kiely 

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Jeb Bush Off on Contributions to Warming http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/jeb-bush-off-on-contributions-to-warming/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/jeb-bush-off-on-contributions-to-warming/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 15:40:31 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95557 Jeb Bush claimed that the science is unclear as to how much humans contribute to global warming. The United Nations climate change research organization, however, has deemed it “extremely likely” that more than half of the observed temperature increase since 1950 is due to human activities.

At an event in New Hampshire, Bush was asked about climate change. He acknowledged that climate change is occurring, but questioned its causes.

Bush, May 20: I don’t think the science is clear of what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. I just don’t — it’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you.

This suggests that the relative contributions to global warming from humans and from natural causes are unknown. Though absolute certainty on this issue is impossible, much research has gone into the question, and relatively good answers are indeed available from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report that was released in 2013.

IPCC, 2013: It is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in GMST [global mean surface temperature] from 1951 to 2010. This assessment is supported by robust evidence from multiple studies using different methods.

“Extremely likely” means that the likelihood of an outcome is between 95 percent and 100 percent certain. The IPCC added that it is “virtually certain” — which means 99 percent to 100 percent probability — “that internal variability alone cannot account for the observed global warming since 1951.” In the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers, the authors summarize clearly: “The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.” In other words, the best guess is that humans have caused essentially all of the warming that has occurred.

SciCHECKinsertThe fifth assessment report goes into more detail on specific amounts of warming. Over that 1951 to 2010 period, there was a total rise in temperature of 0.6 degrees Celsius, or about one degree Fahrenheit. Human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide “likely” (66 percent to 100 percent probability) caused between 0.5 and 1.3 degrees C of warming in total. Other human activities such as the release of aerosols have had more of a cooling effect, because they scatter and block sunlight as it reaches the atmosphere; this effect totaled between -0.6 and 0.1 degrees C.

Natural influences, including things like changes in the sun’s output and volcanic eruptions, have had little effect — between -0.1 and 0.1 degrees C. Internal variability, which refers to natural fluctuations in temperature, also only accounted for a change between -0.1 and 0.1 degrees C.

Here’s a visual version of these numbers, from the IPCC’s report.

warming contributions

The top bar represents the observed warming since 1951 — how much hotter it has actually become, according to the planet’s numerous weather stations. Below that in green is the warming due to greenhouse gas emissions; the yellow bar represents other anthropogenic — human-caused — activities like aerosol emissions, and the orange bar combines those two human sources. At the bottom are the relatively small contributions from natural sources like the sun and volcanos, and internal variability.

To be clear, all these results have uncertainty associated with them — that’s what the lines with brackets on each bar represent. But even with that uncertainty, the human contribution to warming clearly is far larger than that of natural sources.

How do scientists attribute warming to one source over another? One method is to compare what has happened to what scientists expect would happen under certain circumstances. To do this, scientists use computer models: They simulate what would happen without human activity like burning fossil fuels, then add in that activity, and see how the simulation results differ. If the actual, observable trends — that 0.6 degrees C rise in temperature, in this case — mirror what happens in the model with human activity but not without it, then that means human activity is likely responsible for the trend.

Here’s how the IPCC describes this idea:

IPCC, 2013: If observed changes are consistent with simulations that include human influence, and inconsistent with those that do not, this would be sufficient for attribution. …

Here is a visual representation (see page 875) of what the models say would happen with and without human activities compared with the observed temperature trend. (This is a simplified, or “idealized,” version of reality for visualization purposes, according to the IPCC, but more complete studies have used this method to arrive at the results mentioned above.)


The blue line represents what multiple climate models say would have happened over more than 100 years with only natural variability — basically, only a small change in temperature would have been expected. The orange line is the same models’ guess at how the climate would react to human activities like burning fossil fuels. And all those dots, and the black line fitted to them, are what actually happened. The close link between the observed trend and the models’ guess suggests that human activity is indeed causing the planet to warm up.

This sort of analysis has been repeated and confirmed in several published studies, which the IPCC used in its synthesis of the evidence. For example, a study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists published in the Journal of Climate in 2013 found there were “detectable anthropogenic warming components” over most of the surface of the world for temperatures between 1901 and 2010, and in most cases the amount of warming was consistent with the models as well.

Another 2013 paper published in the journal Climate Dynamics used a different type of analysis and found that “the expected warming due to all human influences since 1950 (including aerosol effects) is very similar to the observed warming.” Yet one more, from 2011 in Nature Geoscience, found very similar results — human emissions caused 0.85 degrees C of warming, half of which was offset by aerosol emissions. This paper as well concluded that “human-induced causes dominate the observed warming.”

Other studies, included in the IPCC analysis, have found that human influence is likely the major contributor to warming over every specific part of the world with the exception of Antarctica. There are a number of other lines of evidence as well, regarding the global water cycle, the warming of the oceans and other pieces of the climate puzzle. In all, the totality of this evidence led the IPCC to make a firm conclusion:

IPCC, 2013: Taken together, the combined evidence increases the level of confidence in the attribution of observed climate change, and reduces the uncertainties associated with assessment based on a single climate variable. From this combined evidence it is virtually certain that human influence has warmed the global climate system.

Again, “virtually certain” means between 99 percent and 100 percent probability. Bush is correct if he means that researchers are unlikely to ever have an exact number for how many degrees are caused by humans — scientific calculations always have a certain amount of uncertainty. But that doesn’t mean that nothing at all is known on the topic. In this case, the science says that humans “dominate” the causes of global warming.

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

– Dave Levitan

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Clinton Misuses Stat on CEO Pay http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/clinton-misuses-stat-on-ceo-pay/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/clinton-misuses-stat-on-ceo-pay/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 18:02:53 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95489 Hillary Clinton said the “average American CEO” makes 300 times more than the typical worker, but she was referring to a study that looked at pay disparity between CEOs and average workers only at the top 350 companies — a fraction of the 246,240 chief executives in the U.S.

Clinton is a repeat offender on this statistic. Our colleagues at the Washington Post Fact Checker dinged Clinton in April when she said, “There’s something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than the American worker.” And the Wall Street Journal noted that two days earlier, Clinton had made the even less defensible claim — similar to the one we are fact-checking — that “the average CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker makes.”

But Clinton still hasn’t amended the talking point.

In remarks on small businesses in Iowa on May 18, Clinton again failed to properly qualify the statistic.

Clinton, May 18: We need to get back into the habit of actually rewarding workers with increases in their paychecks for the increases in productivity and profitability that they have helped to bring about. You know, Warren Buffett has said it, but so have a lot of other people: There’s something wrong when the average American CEO makes 300 times more than the typical American worker.

The Clinton campaign did not respond to our inquiry about the statement, but the campaign told the Washington Post Fact Checker that Clinton got the statistic from a study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. According to the EPI study, released in June 2014, average compensation for CEOs of the top 350 U.S. firms in 2013 was $15.2 million. That’s 295.9 times higher than the compensation paid to the typical workers at those firms, the study concluded. By comparison, the ratio was 20-to-1 in 1965 and grew to a peak of 383.4-to-1 in 2000. When considering CEO compensation, EPI considered salary and stock options as well as “bonuses, restricted stock grants, and long-term incentive payouts.”

But that study only looked at the CEOs of the top 350 U.S. companies. That represents a fraction of the CEOs in the U.S. In April 2013, Bloomberg looked at the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of companies and found that “the average multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is 204, up 20 percent since 2009.”

The EPI report refers to an analysis by Temple University professor Steven Balsam of the 9,692 executives in publicly owned firms who were in the top 0.1 percent of wage earners. He found they had average W-2 earnings of $4.4 million, far below the $15.2 million average compensation for the top 350 CEOs in the EPI report. We reached out to Balsam, and he told us via email that as you include larger numbers of chief executives, the pay ratio between them and typical workers becomes dramatically smaller.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 246,240 chief executives in the U.S. in May 2014 (a little less than 1 percent of all workers). The median annual wage of those executives was $173,320 (the average wage was $180,700). That’s a little less than five times the median annual wage for all workers, including chief executives, which was $35,540 then. (The ratio is closer to 4-to-1 if comparing the average wage of CEOs to the average wage of all workers, $47,230.)

The BLS data are wages and not total compensation, which can include items such as stock options, bonuses and benefits. So this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison with the figures from the EPI report, but it is further evidence that when all CEOs are included, the pay disparity is far smaller than that cited by Clinton.

Drilling down, the mean wage for the 21,550 chief executives at “management of companies and enterprises” was $216,100. The ratio for these executives is closer to 4.5-to-1 if considering average pay. (We were not able to exclude chief executive pay from the BLS data on all workers; if we could, the disparity between chief executive pay and that of all other workers would likely be larger.)

In other words, the “average American CEO” earns far less than the average CEO at the biggest 350 firms, and the ratio between the pay of the “average American CEO” and the average American worker is far smaller than the figure cited by Clinton.

Clinton could easily amend this talking point by referring to CEOs at “top” American firms, or some similar qualifier. But on several occasions now, she hasn’t.

— Robert Farley

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FlackCheck Video: Fiorina on Student Loans http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/flackcheck-video-fiorina-on-student-loans/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/flackcheck-video-fiorina-on-student-loans/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 16:21:20 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95516 This FlackCheck.org video summarizes our May 7 story “Fiorina Misleads on Student Loans.” Carly Fiorina, a Republican presidential candidate, claimed that the government had “nationalized” the college loan industry and was charging 6.5 percent interest on loans.

]]> http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/flackcheck-video-fiorina-on-student-loans/feed/ 0 FlackCheck Video: Huckabee Announcement http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/flackcheck-video-huckabee-announcement/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/flackcheck-video-huckabee-announcement/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 16:20:59 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95520 Mike Huckabee is making another run at the presidency after a failed attempt in 2008. This video from FlackCheck.org looks at some of the old, discredited lines on the economy, health care and tax cuts that he repeated during his May 5 announcement speech.

]]> http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/flackcheck-video-huckabee-announcement/feed/ 0 Does a Fetus Feel Pain at 20 Weeks? http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/does-a-fetus-feel-pain-at-20-weeks/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/does-a-fetus-feel-pain-at-20-weeks/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 16:13:46 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95312 A number of Republican House members say scientific research proves a 20-week-old fetus can feel pain. This is a complicated and controversial topic in science, but the ability to feel pain at that specific point in gestation is unproven.

The House Republicans made their remarks during a debate on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions beyond 20 weeks, with some exceptions for victims of rape or incest and if the mother’s life is in danger. It passed the House on May 13 by a margin of 242-184.

Several lawmakers made similar statements on the House floor:

Rep. Ralph Abraham, May 13: As a doctor, I know and I can attest that this bill is backed by scientific research showing that babies can indeed feel pain at 20 weeks, if not before.

Rep. Dan Benishek, May 13: The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will prevent abortions from occurring after the point at which many scientific studies have demonstrated that children in the womb can actually feel pain.

Rep. Charles Boustany, May 13: The scientific evidence is clear: unborn babies feel pain. They feel pain at 20 weeks post-fertilization.

These statements, and others like them, are problematic because of their definitive nature. Scientific research on pain in the fetus is extremely complicated, primarily because pain is a subjective experience and a fetus cannot indicate if something hurts.

Research on the topic has centered around the stages of brain and nervous system development, and what is known regarding the processing of pain in the brain. We reviewed the literature and spoke with several experts, and we conclude that a firm starting point for pain in the developing fetus is essentially impossible to pin down, and that definitive claims regarding pain perception at 20 weeks are unfounded. We take no position on the bill itself.

Subjectivity and Evidence Reviews

Published research generally supports an experience of pain being possible only later in gestation than 20 weeks. A synthesis of available evidence was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 by experts from the University of California, San Francisco, and elsewhere, and their report concluded: “Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.” The third trimester begins at 27 to 28 weeks from conception.

The perception of pain requires an awareness of an unpleasant stimulus — receptors throughout the body must send a signal to the brain, where it can be processed as pain. One reason the JAMA review finds early pain perception unlikely is that the connections between the thalamus, a sort of relay center in the brain, and the cortex have not yet formed. This happens between 23 and 30 weeks gestational age, and the authors argue these connections are a precursor for pain perception. They also cite studies using electroencephalography that have shown the capacity for functional pain in preterm newborns “probably does not exist before 29 or 30 weeks.”

A March 2010 report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the United Kingdom concluded similarly:

RCOG, 2010: In reviewing the neuroanatomical and physiological evidence in the fetus, it was apparent that connections from the periphery to the cortex are not intact before 24 weeks of gestation and, as most neuroscientists believe that the cortex is necessary for pain perception, it can be concluded that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior to this gestation.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has agreed with RCOG’s and the JAMA study’s findings, writing in 2012 that “[s]upporters of fetal pain legislation only present studies which support the claim of fetal pain prior to the third trimester. When weighed together with other available information, including the JAMA and RCOG studies, supporters’ conclusion does not stand.”

SciCHECKinsertWe asked several members of Congress for evidence to support the claims regarding fetal pain at 20 weeks. Abraham’s office declined, citing the congressman’s personal experience as a family practice physician. Cole Avery, Abraham’s spokesman, told us in an email that the congressman has “read countless medical journals and articles during that career that have led him to the conclusion that babies feel pain at 20 weeks. There’s no single article or fact sheet that led him to this conclusion; he reached it during an entire career of study.”

Others did send materials in support of the claim. Boustany’s spokesman sent us several fact sheets and references that contained numerous citations on neuroanatomy, development and related topics; one of these is available at this site, which endorses the idea that pain is experienced at 20 weeks after fertilization.

For example, Boustany’s documentation claimed a 2007 paper in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences “demonstrated evidence that children born missing virtually all of the cerebral cortex nonetheless experience pain.” That paper, by Swedish neuroscientist Bjorn Merker, was a review of available evidence regarding “consciousness without a cerebral cortex.” It did conclude that “consciousness,” which would include the perception of pain, may reside not only in the cortex but in other, earlier developing brain regions as well.

In 2013, Merker told the New York Times that his work had only “marginal bearing” on fetal pain. In fact, his paper, he said, “did not deal with pain specifically.”

The material from Boustany’s office also cited a number of papers detailing that the sensory receptors on the skin begin to appear as early as seven to eight weeks, and that these are linked by nerve cells to the brain’s thalamus and subcortical plate by 20 weeks. This suggests that pain signals can be received by a fetus and sent to the brain, where they are processed — but only if processing does not actually require a fully developed cerebral cortex. Some experts have indeed argued that some degree of pain perception may not require a cortex, but again, there is no way to confirm this in a fetus.

A common argument, and one also mentioned in Boustany’s materials, has to do with a fetus’ response to stimuli. A heel prick from a needle used for amniocentesis, for example, can result in the fetus recoiling, much as an adult would to a painful pinprick.

Studies have shown, however, that the recoil is more of a reflex controlled by the “lower brain” (which is involved with more base functions like breathing than with consciousness) or the spinal cord and does not necessarily reflect an experience of pain. In fact, the same response can be seen in anencephalic infants, who are born missing large parts of the brain. As the JAMA review explains: “[F]lexion withdrawal from tactile stimuli is a noncortical spinal reflex exhibited by infants with anencephaly and by individuals in a persistent vegetative state who lack cortical function.”

Put another way, the experience of pain is different from what is known as nociception. Nociception refers to the body’s ability to perceive harm — this can be achieved below the level of consciousness, as with reflexes. A paper published in 2001 in the journal Bioethics explains the difference: “[W]hile nociception is neural activity, pain is an unpleasant feeling. It follows that while pain requires some level of consciousness, nociception does not.”

Pain Intensity and Fetal Viability

Proponents of 20-week abortion bans often also cite Kanwaljeet Anand, a professor of pediatrics, anesthesiology and neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He has stated that pain may indeed occur in a fetus, through other neurobiological mechanisms than in an adult, as early as 20 weeks post-fertilization or even before. A claim attributed to him that the pain perceived is “possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns” is repeated often, including during the House floor debate by Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican from South Dakota:

Noem, May 13: This is the stage where we know the baby can feel pain, and could be viable outside the womb with proper care. In fact, there is evidence that the pain that the unborn baby feels is even more intense than what a young child or an adult would feel because their nervous system isn’t developed enough to block that pain.

In testimony before Congress in 2005, however, Anand was specifically asked about this idea. He responded: “No. There is — that is not my opinion. And I really don’t have any data to suggest that that could be true, or the other way.” He explained that there is some data suggesting a lower pain threshold in preterm newborns than in full-term newborns or older children, but extrapolating that back to the gestation period is not possible.

Anand also told the New York Times in 2013 that he has turned down many requests to testify in court cases regarding fetal pain, objecting to the politicization of his research.

Noem also mentioned that a fetus at 20 weeks “could be viable outside the womb with proper care.” Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, also mentioned this and cited a recent study on extremely preterm infants:

Foxx, May 13: The New York Times reporting just last week on a study that the New England Journal of Medicine published that found that 25 percent of children born prematurely at the stage of pregnancy covered by this legislation survive.

The study in question analyzed the outcomes regarding 4,987 babies born before 27 weeks gestational age.

(It is important to note that gestational age and post-fertilization age are different. Gestational age, which the study on viability used, is measured from the mother’s last normal menstruation before conception. Post-fertilization age is the time since conception. Generally, one can add two weeks to post-fertilization age to calculate an approximate gestational age. H.R. 36 refers to abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization age, which is equivalent to 22 weeks gestational age.)

We asked Foxx’s office for clarification, but received no response. We are unsure to what exactly her 25 percent figure refers.

In the study she referenced, a total of 357 babies were born at 22 weeks gestational age, and 5.1 percent of them survived; 2.0 percent survived without moderate or severe impairment. At 23 weeks, the rate rose substantially, with 23.6 percent surviving overall and 11.3 percent surviving without impairment. By 26 weeks, most babies survive, at 81.4 percent, and 58.5 percent survive without impairment.

Noem is right that a fetus at 20 weeks post-fertilization — or 22 weeks gestational age — “could be viable outside the womb with proper care.” But at least in one study, only 2 percent of these babies survived without moderate or severe impairment, and only 5.1 percent survived at all.

Some experts argue, as Anand does, that pain in the fetus is not precisely the same as in an adult and may occur earlier than 20 weeks. Martin Platt, an honorary and clinical reader in neonatal and pediatric medicine at Newcastle University in the U.K. who has criticized arguments against early fetal pain, told us in an email that “it is now clearly recognized that infants and preterm babies process pain through different structures than adults, so ‘adult based’ arguments are not relevant.” Still, he said, “we are no closer to defining a gestational age below which” pain might not be felt.

In his 2011 editorial in the journal Archives of Diseases in Childhood, Platt stressed the need for better understanding of this complicated issue before firm proclamations are made:

Platt, 2011: [T]he literature on fetal behaviour, perception, organisation, movement and responses focuses largely on fetuses above 28 weeks of gestation, with a relative lack of studies on the fetus between 20 and 24 weeks. This results in too much reliance on neuroscience, too much reference to animal work, too much extrapolation from both of these and too little real-world human investigation on which to base a realistic view. No one would deny that there are important issues to be confronted, but a sensible debate needs a solid base of rigorous empirical enquiry.

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

– Dave Levitan

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O’Malley’s Immigration Exaggeration http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/omalleys-immigration-exaggeration/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/omalleys-immigration-exaggeration/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 21:30:13 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95314 Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton disagreed last year on what to do about the Central American children who illegally crossed the border. But O’Malley went too far in claiming that Clinton wanted to “return refugee children from Central America summarily back to death gangs and the drug gangs.”

Clinton drew a distinction last year between migrants who crossed the border illegally for economic or family reasons and refugees whose lives would be in danger if they were deported. She favored returning migrant children to “responsible adults in their families” back in Central America. But she also said that she would not deport children who had “a legitimate claim for asylum” and “would face some terrible danger if they return.”

O’Malley, who served as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, is one of a few Democrats preparing to challenge Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. It has been clear for many months that O’Malley likely would run against Clinton and he gained some press coverage last summer when, on July 11, 2014, he “went to the left of Hillary Clinton on the border crisis,” as Real Clear Politics put it.

In the summer of 2014, there was a sharp increase in the number of unaccompanied immigrant children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. On June 30, 2014, President Obama sought money from Congress to, among other things, expedite the deportation of the unaccompanied minors – which drew criticism from groups that support civil rights and less restrictive immigration policies.

Clinton supported the president’s position. But O’Malley said the Obama administration’s proposal would send the children “back to certain death.”

So there are differences between the candidates on that issue.

But O’Malley went too far when he recalled the border crisis during a campaign visit to New Hampshire, as reported by the Washington Post:

Washington Post, May 13: O’Malley was also asked whether he thought Clinton’s embrace last week of several pro-immigration measures was genuine.

He instead cited his own record, which included standing up to the White House last year in the midst of a wave of undocumented minors coming over the border from Central America.

“I said many, many months ago when some were suggesting — including Secretary Clinton — that we should return refugee children from Central America summarily back to death gangs and the drug gangs in Honduras and Guatemala,” O’Malley said. “I said that that was inconsistent with our moral principles as a people, that we are a generous and compassionate nation.”

Clinton did not say or suggest that “refugee children” should be sent “summarily back to death gangs.” In fact, she said the opposite.

O’Malley’s staff forwarded us numerous citations of Clinton’s statements on the border crisis, beginning with remarks she made at a June 17, 2014 town hall meeting that were televised on CNN. The former Secretary of State attracted sharp criticism for saying: “We have to send a clear message. Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.” But that wasn’t all she said.

Her full response to the question shows she said some children should be returned to “responsible adults in their families” back home, but not all of them should be deported. She also said that allowing all of the children to stay would “encourage more children to make that dangerous journey” to the U.S.

Christiane Amanpour of CNN, June 17, 2014: So you are saying they should be sent back now.

Clinton: Well, they should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns about whether all of them can be sent back, but I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families. And just as Vice President Joe Biden is arguing today in Central American, we’ve got to do more. I started this when I was secretary, to deal with the violence in this region, to deal with border security. But we have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay. So we don’t want to send a message that’s contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.

Clinton expounded on that answer five weeks later in interviews with John Harwood of the New York Times and Jorge Ramos of Fusion, a media company that is jointly owned by Univision and Disney/ABC Television.

In the interview with the Times, which appeared on July 24, 2014, Clinton made a distinction between migrant children and refugee children.

“We have two categories of people that are represented by these poor children that have come across our border. We have migrants, children who are leaving for a variety of reasons — economic, they want to reunite with family members,” she told the Times. “And we have refugees, people who have reason to be threatened, people who have bad probabilities if they return home as to what might happen to them.”

She said something similar to Ramos, who asked the question: “Who would you deport?” She responded: “Whoever was in the category of where they don’t have a legitimate claim for asylum.”

She also told Ramos that the Obama administration made a “good suggestion” to airlift certain at-risk Central American children to the U.S. A day earlier, on July 24, 2014, the New York Times reported that the administration was considering creating a refugee program for children from Honduras. Clinton spoke about doing the same for children from El Salvador and Guatemala as well.

Ramos, July 25, 2014: I think no government should be in the business of deporting endangered children.

Clinton: No, of course not. That’s why we need a process to determine who falls into that category, and then I do think the Obama administration has made a good suggestion. We’ve done this in Vietnam. We’ve done this in Haiti. We should be setting up a system in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, to screen kids. And in fact John McCain –

Ramos: Over there?

Clinton: Over there. Before they get in the hands of coyotes or get on ‘The Beast’ or they’re raped or terrible things happen to them.

That’s exactly what the Obama administration did in November, as we recently wrote about.

As for tens of thousands of children who came here illegally, they were turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for placement under its Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program, as required by law. Initially, the children were placed in temporary shelters, but they since have “either been transferred to standard shelters or released to sponsors while they await immigration proceedings,” according to the ORR website. The sponsors could be foster parents or relatives living in the U.S., as we explained in an item last year.

O’Malley’s staff makes the point that any child deported faces certain death. We understand the governor’s point, but in making it he misrepresented Clinton’s position.

Clinton advocated last year to protect refugee children from Central America — those living in the U.S. and those still in Central America — contrary to O’Malley’s claim that she suggested “we should return refugee children from Central America summarily back to death gangs and the drug gangs.”

— Eugene Kiely

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Fiorina’s Selective Record at HP http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/fiorinas-selective-record-at-hp/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/fiorinas-selective-record-at-hp/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 17:12:10 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95202 Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina repeatedly has said “we doubled the size of the company” and “took the growth rate from 2 percent to 9 percent,” while she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Both statistics pertain to revenue, but Fiorina uses different time frames to boost her record. She also neglects to mention that the increase in revenue came after HP acquired Compaq and was accompanied by a decrease in net earnings.

Fiorina has given these statistics, and others, in response to questions about her firing from the technology company. She was CEO of HP from July 1999 through February 2005, when she was ousted from the company. She told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” on May 10: “And what people fail to comment on is the fact that we doubled the size of the company, we took the growth rate from 2 percent to 9 percent, we tripled the rate of innovations to 11 patents a day.”

She rattled off similar points to Yahoo! News’ Katie Couric on May 4, saying: “We doubled the company to almost $90 billion. We took the growth rate from 2 percent to 9 percent. … We quadrupled the cash flow.” And those same claims are on Fiorina’s campaign website.

‘Doubled’ Revenue

Fiorina’s major move as head of HP was the acquisition of Compaq in May 2002. It was controversial — opposed by Walter Hewlett (the son of founder Bill Hewlett), who unsuccessfully contested the close shareholder vote for the merger in a lawsuit. But the merger certainly caused an increase in revenue, as the company known for printers moved into the personal computer market.

For the claim that revenue “doubled” to “almost $90 billion,” Fiorina compares the fiscal 1999 revenue of $42.4 billion with the fiscal 2005 revenue of $86.7 billion. HP’s fiscal year ends Oct. 31, so 1999 would include a little more than three months of Fiorina’s tenure, which began July 19 that year. She left the company on Feb. 9, 2005, so that fiscal year includes about three months with Fiorina at the helm. (The figures come from the company’s annual 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.)

Fiscal 2004 may be a better point of comparison, since Fiorina was with HP for the full year. Revenue that year was $80 billion. That’s still close to a doubling since 1999.

The merger was a significant reason for the jump in revenue. In 2001, HP’s revenue was $45.2 billion and Compaq’s was $33.6 billion. In 2003, the first full fiscal year for the combined companies, HP’s revenue totaled $73 billion.

HP revenue growth chart, FactCheck.org


And revenue statistics alone don’t tell the whole story. Net earnings, or income, didn’t see the same kind of boost as revenue. In fact, if we look at the same fiscal years as the Fiorina campaign, net earnings dropped, from $3.1 billion in 1999 to $2.4 billion in 2005.

The company didn’t see a significant spike in earnings until 2006, when they hit $6.2 billion.

We asked Kartik Hosanagar, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, about using financial indicators to evaluate Fiorina’s performance. He said that normally the reduction in earnings (along with layoffs that occurred after the merger and a drop in stock valuation) “would by itself be enough to say that it was an unsuccessful stint. However, she was HP’s CEO during an overall tough period in the tech industry. Most companies laid off workers and lost stock market valuation.”

When we asked Fiorina’s campaign about the reduction in earnings that came with the growth in revenue during her tenure, we were referred to a spokeswoman for her super PAC, who noted that Fiorina led the company during an economic recession. “Carly Fiorina made the tough decisions that were necessary to reform the company, and HP and its shareholders reaped the rewards of those decisions after she left,” said Leslie Shedd, press secretary for Carly for America.

Conflicting Revenue Claims

Fiorina’s “doubled” the company claim is often followed by the claim that “we took the growth rate from 2 percent to 9 percent.” That, too, is a reference to revenue, but it isn’t calculated by comparing 1999 to 2005. Instead, her super PAC says the statistic compares the second quarter of 1999 to all of 2005.

If we use the same parameters as Fiorina’s “doubled” claim, revenue growth went from 7.5 percent in 1999 to 8.5 percent in 2005. But 2005’s revenue growth was only 6 percent on a constant currency basis, which is an adjustment due to foreign currency fluctuations. (In 1999, there wasn’t a significant currency impact.)

In a document that criticizes the Washington Post‘s FactChecker, Glenn Kessler, for taking issue with these same claims, the Carly for America super PAC says, “When dealing with complex information like SEC reports for $90 billion companies, you could cherry-pick different data sets to get the answers you want.” We couldn’t agree more. But it’s Fiorina, not Kessler, who’s doing the cherry-picking.

The PAC argues that the second quarter of 1999, the last full quarter before Fiorina joined the company, is the only fair starting point. But it uses an apples-to-oranges comparison by looking at the growth rate for six months ending April 30, 1999, (over that same period from 1998), and comparing that to the full year for 2005.

If Fiorina uses the full year for 1999, the increase in revenue growth doesn’t look as impressive, as we just showed. And actually, revenue growth decreased after HP adjusts the 2005 numbers for currency fluctuations.

Comparing the growth rate in one year to another, however, doesn’t reveal much about how the company performed over a six-year period. In fact, revenue growth figures fluctuated significantly during her time as CEO: In 2001, the growth was a negative 3 percent, while 2003, the first full fiscal year of the merged company, saw 23 percent growth, both currency-adjusted numbers. The 2003 10-K report filed with the SEC attributes the big jump that year to the Compaq acquisition, saying: “The net revenue increase in fiscal 2003 as compared to fiscal 2002 and in fiscal 2002 as compared to fiscal 2001 was attributable primarily to our acquisition of Compaq at the beginning of May 2002.”

HP revenue growth rate chart, FactCheck.org

Revenue growth didn’t follow a clear trajectory over Fiorina’s time; instead it dipped, increased and dipped again, as the chart shows.

Cash Flow and Patents

In saying she “quadrupled the cash flow,” Fiorina is comparing cash and short-term investments from Oct. 31, 1998 ($4 billion) to Oct. 31, 2005 ($13.9 billion). That’s an increase of 240 percent (or more than a tripling). Using Oct. 31, 1999 as the starting point — the same date used for her “doubled” revenue claim — drops the increase to 150 percent (cash and cash equivalents were $5.6 billion then).

Either way, it’s a sizable increase in cash flow, again primarily attributable to the 2002 merger. Cash flow remained around $4 billion through fiscal 2001, and then jumped to $11.4 billion in 2002 and $14.2 billion in 2003.

The number of patents also increased under Fiorina. She claims, “We tripled the rate of innovations to 11 patents a day.” Precise numbers are difficult to come by — and we disagree with the math provided by the PAC to back up Fiorina’s claim — but there is support for the claim that the rate of obtaining patents tripled.

Here’s how the PAC comes up with those numbers: It says, “When Carly started at the company in 1999, HP had 10,000 patents in force.” That figure also appears in a December 1999 news article. That year’s 10-K report doesn’t say anything about the number of patents. But the 2005 10-K report says the company had 30,000 patents. That’s an increase of 20,000 patents over six years, for an average of nine patents per day. Not 11, as the PAC says.

The sheer number of patents tripled, but — as the Post‘s Kessler also points out — Fiorina claims a tripling of “the rate,” not the number. The 1999 news article said that Fiorina had said patents were growing at a rate of five per working day. Since Fiorina is talking about a change in patent rates from the time she joined the company compared with the time she left, it’s best to look at the rate of patents in her final year with the company.

From fiscal 2003 to 2004, the final full year she was with HP, patents increased by 4,000, according to the company’s 10-K reports. That’s nearly 11 patents every day of the year, but if we discount weekends, we get 15 patents per working day. That would be a tripling of the rate compared with 1999.

The following year, HP saw an even greater increase in the number of patents, going from 25,000 at the end of fiscal 2004 to 30,000 at the end of fiscal 2005.

Now, the Compaq merger again had an impact on this facet of the company. Compaq’s 2001 10-K report (its last year before the merger) says the company had 3,900 patents at the end of that calendar year, with another 1,800 patent applications pending.

— Lori Robertson

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Christie’s False Part-Timer Claim http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/christies-false-part-timer-claim/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/christies-false-part-timer-claim/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 17:15:52 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95209 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie claims “we’ve had a huge shift from full-time work to part-time work” under President Obama. That’s false.

There was indeed a “huge shift” in the percentage of all employees who work part-time — but the shift began under George W. Bush, coinciding with the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Since then, the part-timer ratio has been trending downward. As of April it was within one-tenth of one percentage point of where it was when Obama first took office. The fact is, under Obama nearly half the effects of the recession on part-time work have been reversed.

Part time workersWe drew up the chart above from Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. They show that when Obama began his first term in January 2009 the percentage of part-timers was 18.6 percent of all employed persons — and the percentage was rising rapidly.

The ratio peaked at 20.1 percent exactly one year later, just before overall job losses bottomed out. That was the highest part-timer ratio since 1968, when BLS began the current series of figures on part-time workers.

From that 2010 peak, however, the part-timer ratio has meandered more or less steadily downward. It reached 18.4 percent in March, and then ticked up to 18.7 percent in April.

From the start of the recession in December 2007 to the part-timer peak the ratio rose by 3.2 percentage points. Since then it has dropped by 1.4 percentage points.

Christie — who hasn’t yet announced that he’s running for president — made his claim May 12 at the University of New Hampshire in a speech denouncing Obama as “the worst economic president since Jimmy Carter” and laying out an economic plan including tax cuts and reductions in federal regulation of business.

Fruit-Salad Economics

Christie supported his part-time work claim with a fruit salad of figures; he cherry-picked some numbers, made apples-to-oranges comparisons of others, and ended with a conclusion that’s a logical lemon. (He made his remarks at 18:33 into the video.)

Christie, May 12: First, this weak recovery has pushed full-time workers into part-time work. Now it’s true that overall employment is higher today than it was at its pre-recession peak in 2007. But if you just take a look under the covers, you see something a lot more troubling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of full-time — full-time employees — is still 3.2 million below the peak in the third quarter of 2007. The number of part-time workers is higher than it was in that same quarter by over 4 million. So look at what’s happened, what this president has done to our economy. We’ve had a huge shift from full-time work to part-time work.

Blaming the recovery: We’ll start with the claim that “this weak recovery has pushed full-time workers into part-time work.” Actually, as we’ve shown, the pushing came during the recession, not during the recovery that followed.

It’s true that the part-timer ratio hasn’t yet returned to its pre-recession level, and anyone is free to argue that it might have declined faster under a different set of economic policies. But blaming the recovery rather than the recession puts matters backwards.

Full-time workers: Christie said “the number of full-time employees is still 3.2 million below the peak” and cited the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but that figure relies on deceptive cherry-picking, using raw, unadjusted, quarter-to-quarter figures. Actually, the number of full-time workers in April was nearly 5 million higher than it was when Obama took office, measured by the seasonally adjusted, monthly figures that economists and journalists prefer.

Christie made an apples-to-oranges comparison when he sought to blame Obama by comparing present full-time employment to where things stood in the July-September quarter of 2007, when George W. Bush was president. Full-time employment was declining for many months before Obama took office in January 2009.

Christie’s use of quarterly rather than monthly figures also had the effect of crediting Obama with job losses in the month of January 2009, when Bush was still president. Obama took office on the 20th, just after BLS had already conducted their January survey.

So the figures Christie cited include a good portion of Bush-era changes, which the governor cites as evidence of  “what this president has done to our economy.” We call that lemon logic, and invalid.

Finally, Christie inappropriately used raw, unadjusted figures, rather than the preferred seasonally adjusted figures. That’s more cherry-picking, and produces a higher number than using the preferred seasonally adjusted figures. It’s deceitful in that it blames Obama for some full-time job losses that were simply due to normal seasonal variations.

Part-time workers: Christie used the same manipulations when he said, “The number of part-time workers is higher than it was in that same quarter by over 4 million.” Actually, the number of part-time workers in April was just 1.4 million more than it was when Obama first took office. And as we’ve mentioned, the ratio of part-time workers to all workers is almost exactly what it was in January 2009.

We should also mention something Christie did not; most part-timers seek out such work. They do so because of childcare problems, family or personal obligations, school or training, retirement or Social Security limits on earnings, and other reasons having nothing to do with the state of the economy.

In April, for example, fewer than 6.6 million said they were working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time work or because business was slow, according to the BLS. But more than 20 million worked part-time for reasons not related to the economy.

The number forced to work part-time for economic reasons surged during 2007 and 2008, then crept up more slowly until peaking in September of 2010. But since then it has come down substantially.

As of April, the number working part-time because of the economy was nearly 2.7 million less than at the peak, and nearly 1.5 million less than when Obama first entered the White House. That’s a shift away from involuntary part-time work, not toward it.

To be sure, there were still 6.6 million people in April who wanted full-time work but couldn’t get it due to the economy, substantially more than the 4.6 million figure at the start of the recession in December 2007. So there is still room for improvement.

But the fact is, the trend in part-time work under Obama has been the opposite of what Christie wants voters to believe it is.

— Brooks Jackson


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Santorum’s Puffery on Iran http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/santorums-puffery-on-iran/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/05/santorums-puffery-on-iran/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 16:59:13 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=95205 Rick Santorum has a history of taking a hard line on Iran, but he engaged in a bit of revisionist history when he regaled South Carolina Republicans with the tale of a Senate battle over an Iran sanctions bill:

  • Santorum falsely claimed he had no cosponsors in 2004 when he introduced the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which he described as “a bill that put sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program.” He had two cosponsors when he first introduced it in 2004 (but that version did not address sanctions at all) and 61 cosponsors when he revised and reintroduced it in 2005 (when it did address sanctions).
  • He drew gasps from the audience when he singled out Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as those “who stood up and voted against” his bill in 2006. But he failed to mention that the Bush White House lobbied against his bill because the administration was negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran.
  • Santorum also exaggerated when he claimed he authored “a lot” of “the sanctions that you hear about that are crushing Iran, that brought them to the [negotiating] table” with the Obama administration. In fact, the bill he sponsored codified existing sanctions. He did not author them.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who is preparing to run for president, urged Republicans at the South Carolina Freedom Summit to consider actions, not words, when picking the party’s next presidential nominee. “Look at their record,” he said.

With that advice, Santorum gave a history lesson on the Iran Freedom and Support Act as an example of the kind of leader he is. (His remarks begin about 9 minutes into the video.)

Santorum, May 9: Back in 2004, ladies and gentlemen, I authored a bill called the Iran Freedom and Support Act. It was a bill that put sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program and when I authored it I couldn’t get a single cosponsor. No one was worried about Iran. Eventually, two years later, we fought, got it on the floor of the Senate, it was defeated on the floor, and who stood up and voted against me? Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But six months later we passed that bill unanimously. It is now — the sanctions that you hear about that are crushing Iran, that brought them to the table, I was the author of a lot of those sanctions.

There is a lot here, so let’s take it in chronological order.

Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004

The first thing to know is that he is talking about similarly titled but substantially different bills. The first was the Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004. That’s the bill he is talking about when he starts with the phrase “back in 2004.” But he follows with two false statements about that bill.

Santorum says that “[i]t was a bill that put sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program,” but it wasn’t. It was a bill that expressed “the sense of Congress” that the U.S. should support “regime change” in Iran by providing support to “foreign and domestic pro-democracy groups.” There was nothing about sanctions. That will come later — as we will explain shortly.

Still talking about the 2004 bill, Santorum says, “[W]hen I authored it I couldn’t get a single cosponsor. No one was worried about Iran.” At this point, he sticks his hand up and waves, as if to say, “Except me. I was worried about Iran.”

The Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004 didn’t have much support, but it had two cosponsors. In fact, Santorum’s office issued a press release on July 20, 2004, noting that Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was “an original cosponsor.” Sen. Jim Inhofe signed on as a cosponsor less than two months later on Sept. 7, 2004. It’s important to remember, though, that this bill had nothing to do with sanctions.

And the notion that “no one was worried about Iran” is simply false.

Two months before Santorum introduced the Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004, the House on May 6, 2004, voted 376-3 on a resolution that authorized the use of “all appropriate means” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And one day before Santorum issued a press release announcing the introduction of his bill, the Washington Post wrote that the Bush administration was “under mounting pressure to take action to deal with Iran.”

Washington Post, July 19, 2004: Since May, Congress has been moving — with little notice — toward a joint resolution calling for punitive action against Iran if it does not fully reveal details of its nuclear arms program. In language similar to the prewar resolution on Iraq, a recent House resolution authorized the use of “all appropriate means” to deter, dissuade and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weaponry — terminology often used to approve preemptive military force. Reflecting the growing anxiety on Capitol Hill about Iran, it passed 376 to 3.

So, this notion that Santorum was the only one worried about Iran when he introduced the Iran Freedom and Support Act in July 2004 is wrong.

Iran Sanctions

After discussing the lack of support for his bill, Santorum jumps ahead two years without explaining that he is now talking about similarly titled but substantially different bills, the Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2005, which he introduced on Feb. 9, 2005, and the Iran Freedom Support Act, which he introduced on Sept. 28, 2006.

Both bills, like the 2004 bill, called for supporting pro-democracy groups in Iran. However, these bills also included a section that codified existing executive orders that imposed economic sanctions on Iran — some of which date to 1979. The 2005 bill had 61 cosponsors, including 23 Democrats, and the 2006 bill had nine cosponsors. So he had much more support for the sanctions bills than he did for the 2004 bill that did not address sanctions — despite claiming that he “couldn’t get a single cosponsor” for “a bill that put sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program.”

Santorum goes on to say, “Eventually, two years later, we fought, got it on the floor of the Senate, it was defeated on the floor, and who stood up and voted against me? Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.” At this point, a murmur of disapproval goes through the crowd.

But in singling out the Democratic opposition, including from the woman who wants to be president, Santorum leaves out the fact that the Republican president at the time — and 14 fellow Republican senators — also “stood up” against him.

Here’s what happened: Santorum sought to attach the Iran Freedom and Support Act as an amendment to the defense appropriations bill, but it was defeated 46-53 in a vote on June 15, 2006, after the White House lobbied against it.

In a letter to Sen. John Warner, a Republican who chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Jeffrey T. Bergner warned that the amendment would disrupt ongoing negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear program. (See page S5919.)

Bergner, June 15, 2006: The amendment runs counter to our efforts and those of the international community to present Iran with a clear choice regarding their nuclear ambitions. This amendment, if enacted, would shift unified international attention away from Iran’s nuclear activities and create a rift between the U.S. and our closest international partners. Moreover, it would limit our diplomatic flexibility.

Warner entered the letter into the record, expressed his concern about the timing of Santorum’s amendment, and voted against it.

As Santorum pointed out to his South Carolina audience, the Senate did ultimately pass the Iran Freedom Support Act. (Technical points: It wasn’t six months later, as Santorum said; it was about three months later in September 2006. And it wasn’t Santorum’s 2005 bill, but rather the House version.)

After the White House reached a compromise with Republican congressional leaders, GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced a revised version of the Iran Freedom Support Act on Sept. 27, 2006, and the House passed that bill a day later by voice vote. Santorum introduced a Senate version of the House bill on the same day that the House passed its bill, and two days later the Senate unanimously approved the House bill.

But Santorum went too far when he said “the sanctions that you hear about that are crushing Iran, that brought them to the table, I was the author of a lot of those sanctions.”

The Iran Freedom Support Act did three major things with respect to Iran:

  • “[C]odified the ban on U.S. investment in Iran,” which dates to executive orders first issued in 1979, and gave the president the authority to terminate sanctions if he notifies Congress within 15 days (or three days if there are “exigent circumstances”), according to an Oct. 23, 2014, Congressional Research Service report. So Santorum continued, rather than authored, those sanctions.
  • Authorized funding for pro-democracy groups, which was the primary goal of Santorum’s original 2004 legislation.
  • Allowed for new sanctions against “any entity that contributes to Iran’s ability to acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons,” as described by the Washington Post. But the president has the ability to waive those sanctions. The CRS report says no sanctions have been imposed on any entities under that provision.

We asked Santorum’s office to point to specific sanctions Santorum authored that are “crushing Iran.” Matt Beynon, a spokesman for Santorum’s presidential exploratory committee, said: “The fact remains that Senator Santorum is the author of the Iran Freedom and Support Act, those sanctions have played a key role in bringing Iran to its knees and to the negotiating table, and Senator Santorum successfully did so in the face of opposition from now-President Obama and then-Senator Clinton.” (As we noted earlier, the Iran Freedom Support Act passed the Senate unanimously.)

We do not question Santorum’s history of advocating for tough measures against Iran. It’s his revisionist history that we call into question.

— Eugene Kiely

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