This week, readers sent us comments about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, left-leaning semantics, stimulus efficiency and FactCheck business cards.
In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to email@example.com. Letters may be edited for length.
Too Soft on the Chamber of Commerce
It seems that you are going a bit too easy on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their refusal to divulge sources and amounts of contributions that they then pass on to U.S. political campaigns ["Foreign Money? Really?," Oct. 11]. I cannot recall the name, but a representative of the USCoC said on NBC News that funds that the Chamber receives from overseas are co-mingled with all their other funds. This does not seem to fit with the requirements for "a reasonable accounting method" that ensures "that no foreign nationals decide where the money is given and (that) all funds come from U.S. sources." I do not doubt that the CoC has adequate funds from U.S. sources to pay for their political activities, but without clear separation of the sources of their funds, that is moot.
The DNC ad that uses Chinese currency is clearly out of bounds and stupidly inflammatory, but that does not exonerate the CoC. The Chamber’s secrecy seems suspect to this reasonably centrist voter.
Fort Ashby, W.V.
Word Choice Quibbles
I was glad to see you print the mailbag item concerning impartiality [Sept. 28-Oct.4], but I do think your work leans left.
I’ve noticed many (hundreds of?) cases over the years where word choices and "throw in" phrases tilt the message of a paragraph. One example:
As we noted in our Sept. 27 article, "Did the Stimulus Create Jobs?", the stimulus package increased employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million, according to CBO’s estimate. Some independent economists put the total even higher.
I don’t doubt that some "independent" economists put the number higher but isn’t it also true that some independent economists put the total lower? Of course it is. And the actual independence of these economists is a separate matter. In any case, by only mentioning the presence of economists on one side of the issue, you slant the response. It would have been more impartial to just mention the nonpartisan CBO numbers and leave it at that.
All in all you’re doing the country a great service, but bias is almost impossible to detect in oneself. I think you’d benefit from a "QA" department that wrote no articles but had a keen sense of when things fell off the vertical line. Sadly, I’m guessing your budget doesn’t allow it.
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
It would be inaccurate to say that the stimulus bill didn’t create ANY new jobs ["Did the Stimulus Create Jobs?," Sept. 27]. Of course SOME job creation was established. But, wouldn’t it be true to say that spending nearly 800 billion dollars to create between 1.5 and 3.5 million jobs is grossly inefficient?
FactCheck.org responds: The claims we addressed were that the stimulus "gave us … no jobs," "failed to … create jobs," was "jobless," and so forth. Those claims are untrue. Whether the stimulus spending was efficient or not is another matter, and a legitimate subject for debate, but it’s not our role to offer opinions about that one way or the other.
Truth in Political Advertising
Has anyone ever considered a Truth in Advertising lawsuit against political commercials where facts are distorted or that have blatant lies? All political commercials are nothing more then advertisements for their candidate. They either promote the candidates’ virtues or tear down the opponent. They are absolutely the same as a Coke vs. Pepsi commercial. They can’t make false statements for or against to persuade the consumer to buy their product or to reject the competitors’ product so why can a political commercial make false or misleading statements?
FactCheck.org responds: As we wrote in a 2004 special report, legal action against political spin has generally proven not to be feasible. The First Amendment gives candidates a right to say what they want, leaving it to voters to sort out the truth. It’s our job — and the job of a free press — to help voters do that as best we can.
Many times I’ve been in a bar where people were talking politics and making incorrect statements. I say, "look up a few things on FactCheck.org, I’m not sure you have that right."
However, they don’t trust that you are nonpartisan or they don’t want to take the trouble to write it down.
I would love to get a set of 20 business cards with the web address of this site and the credentials to use in casual conversations. Consider making some official ones. In the meanwhile, I’m going to make my own.