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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

The Momentary “No”

The third-party group Committee for Truth in Politics has released an ad accusing Sen. Barack Obama of favoring early release for sexual offenders. We like the group’s name — hey, that’s what we’re all about! But we find it pretty misleading in the case of this ad, which includes a gross oversight on a 1999 vote. The end result is absurdly wrong.

Here’s the script of the ad (we couldn’t find a version of the video that would run properly on our site, but will post it as soon as we do):

Announcer: It’s tragic but true: Two thirds of all prisoners convicted of rape or sexual assault committed their crime against a child. Even worse, the average child predator exploits seven to 200 victims in their lifetime. In the Illinois Senate, Barack Obama was the only member that voted to allow early release for convicted sexual abusers. Call Senator Obama. Tell him to support the Prevention and Deterrence of Crimes Against Children Act. The Committee for Truth in Politics is responsible for the content of this advertisement.

Obama did indeed vote against Illinois bill SB485, which removed good behavior allowances for anyone who was incarcerated in a county jail for certain types of sexual crimes. But immediately afterward he recanted the vote, saying that he had pushed the wrong button. The transcript from the Illinois Senate floor on March 11, 1999, shows Obama correcting himself as soon as the vote is announced:

Presiding officer: Take the record. On that question, there are 54 Ayes, one Nay, and two voting Present. Senate Bill 485, having received the required constitutional majority, is declared passed. Bottom of page — Senator Obama, what purpose do you rise?

Obama: For purpose of correction. I pressed the wrong bottom [sic] on that. I wanted to vote Yes.

Presiding officer: Record shall reflect your intent, Senator Obama.

It doesn’t — the vote record still shows Obama voting “no.” But the Senate journal for that day records that “Senator Obama asked and obtained unanimous consent for the Journal to reflect his affirmative vote on Senate Bill No. 485.”

Just one more example of the importance of looking at context when something seems to come out of left field — like a lone vote in support of letting child predators go free.