A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Oct. 12-Oct. 18


This week, readers sent us comments about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the deficit, "False" stamps and FactCheck funding.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I have read your analysis of whether or not foreign money has been and is being used by Republicans to fund campaigns ["Foreign Money? Really?," Oct. 11]. The reasoning is flawed: An accusation is made by the Democrats and the Chamber (and Rove) deny it. All that tells us is that one side or the other is incorrect. There is one way to put all this to rest: as advertisers for their political party, the Chamber and Rove etc. could open their books (as they would have had to do before Citizens United). I am assuming that they can’t even [do that if] they wanted to because, according news reports, they promised their contributors anonymity. It is that anonymity which is really concerning and can lead to the destruction of our electoral system (all made possible by the wrongly decided Citizens United).

Philip Furgang
New York, N.Y.

I believe the only way we will have an answer to this question is for the Chamber to open up its books and how its internal policies for keeping foreign funds out of our election process. To simply accept their word from their communications director seems a bit naive on your part.

I normally put a lot of stock in your "decisions" but on this one, it sounds too much like you’re just repeating the GOP talking points about Think Progress ties to John Podesta’s group and his connection to Clinton. By contrast, when you describe Karl Rove, do you discuss his ties to Bush, his impact on McCain in 2000 etc? I’m not sure the answer to this situation is so cut and dry. I think it requires a little more fact checking on your part — and that means going beyond the Communications Director.

Theresa Gasper
Dayton, Ohio

Congress to Blame for Deficits

In regard to your article on false deficit claims, it seems to me that deficits and surpluses have more to do with who is in control of the House and Senate than who is president at the time ["Sunday Replay," Oct. 11]. For the most part what bills and fiscal policies are enacted is based on what party can get certain bills passed. I would like to see all the same surplus and deficit numbers for the Clinton, Bush and Obama years broken down by who had the majority in the Senate and House. I feel like that might give a more accurate view as to which parties policies have had negative or positive impact on the deficit we now find ourselves in.

One also has to take into account the technology or internet bubble that burst in 2001 (several in my family were victims of this and lost jobs, myself included, and we’ve never financially recovered). September 11th and the two wars have also had a huge impact on where we are at along with whether or not the TARP funds and stimulus has been a good or bad thing and who enacted those policies.

I would be very interested in seeing those numbers based on who had control of the House and the Senate.

Donia Simmons
Lexington, Ky.

No Fan of Stamps

It is with disappointment that I saw today that FactCheck, a site I value for clarity, has begun pasting sensationalized "stamps" on photos on its home page.

"BOGUS" and "FALSE" stamps scream in my face in slideshow fashion. These Power Point gimmicks dilute the professionalism to which you should aspire.

This appears to me to be an attempt to inflame rather than to inform. Is it mere coincidence that these stamps appear on stories that show Republicans as less than accurate, or is there an agenda afoot? I never worried about that before when reading FactCheck.

By the way, I would have still written this e-mail had the stamps appeared on stories exposing Democrats’ inaccuracies. My political views are not as strong as my desire to see information presented in a non-inflammatory manner.

Please return to a non-inflammatory method of presenting information.

Jack Law
Burke, Va.

FactCheck Seal of Approval

Like many others, I am sick and tired of false and/or misleading claims made in political ads this year. But I thought I would pass along an idea I had that may help in future election cycles.

I suggest that FactCheck approach candidates’ campaign headquarters and offer to endorse their campaigns with a FactCheck rating (e.g. 1-5 gold stars – like movie reviews) that could display as a banner on their ads indicating that the facts included in the ads were endorsed by your independent analysis, and refer them to your website for more information.

Obviously, this might appeal to the more sincere candidates whose ads are factual and honest (if there are any). Those candidates could then challenge their opponents, asking why they did not, or could not, obtain a FactCheck endorsement, implying that such ads likely could not withstand similar FactCheck scrutiny.

An alternative might be just to do this on your website — run the ads with your rating and explanation — and maybe run some Factcheck ads on TV encouraging viewers to check the reviews of current political ads on your website. You might even contact some political talk shows (eg. MSNBC, Colbert Show, Jon Stewart, etc.), or even the major network news outlets for some publicity for this.

If you could pull this off, it might just help weed out some of the ludicrous ads we’ve been seeing, and raise the bar for these ads.

Joe Jereckos
White Lake, Mich.

FactCheck.org responds: While we appreciate the suggestion, putting this into practice would require vastly more resources than we now have available. It would also put us in the position of appearing to endorse the candidates and their policies, not just the specific factual claims they make.

Funding Facts

Such a complex world we live in today. Facts are very important. How can we tell if your website is biased or not? Do you receive more donations from "conservative" or "liberal" groups?

Marilyn Mead
San Diego, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: We do not accept donations from corporations, unions, partisan organizations or advocacy groups. The majority of our funding has historically come from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the Annenberg Foundation and the Flora Family Foundation. For fiscal year 2011, we also have a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which despite the name is also a philanthropic organization. As of 2010, we do accept individual donations. You can see our financial disclosures on our About Us page.