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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

NRCC’s Dim Ad on Bobby Bright

In a strained attempt to portray Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright of Alabama as a puppet of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the National Republican Congressional Committee makes an interesting claim: "Bobby Bright voted with Nancy Pelosi over 70 percent of the time." That’s entirely true, but context is everything: Bright’s low score ranks him next to last in party loyalty.

The ad, which first aired Sept. 12, is one of several released by the NRCC this week that use Pelosi as a foil. In some of those ads, the NRCC relies on the Washington Post’s votes database, which ranks members based on party votes, to prove their blind allegiance to their leader. For example, the NRCC criticizes Reps. Chet Edwards of Texas (96 percent) and Ben Chandler of Kentucky (94 percent) for voting with Pelosi over 90 percent of the time.

Bobby Bright? As of Sept. 16, he clocks in at 71.8 percent. Only Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, has a lower score among the 435 House members, at 70.9 percent. That was low enough to earn Minnick the endorsement of the Tea Party Express.

So, to the contrary, the ad provides evidence that Bright’s votes are relatively independent of Pelosi’s. And that’s true. Bright voted against his party on many key bills — including the president’s health care legislation, the economic stimulus and the cap-and-trade bill.

The ad is correct when it says that Bright "has taken over $25,000" in campaign contributions from Pelosi. He has received $20,000 from the speaker’s political action committee, PAC to the Future, and $6,000 from her campaign committee since 2008.

And, yes, he voted for Pelosi to become speaker, as the ad says. It was a pro forma vote. His choice was between Pelosi and Republican Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. Independence has its limits.

So, while the NRCC technically has all the facts straight, the ad misleads Alabama voters into thinking Bright is just a pawn in the Democratic game.

— by Kelsey Ferguson, with Eugene Kiely