A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Kingston’s False ‘Amnesty’ Connection


Less than a week before the Republican runoff election for Senate in Georgia, Rep. Jack Kingston is falsely claiming that his opponent, David Perdue, “sat on a board promoting amnesty for illegal immigrants.” Perdue did not sit on the board in question, and he had nothing to do with the group’s endorsement of a 2006 immigration bill.

The ad also repeats a misleading claim about the Common Core State Standards Initiative and distorts Perdue’s nuanced position on it.

Kingston, an 11-term congressman, is facing Perdue, a businessman, in a July 22 runoff. Kingston and Perdue were the two top vote-getters in the May 20 primary, but neither received the requisite 50 percent of votes required to win. Recent polls show the race is close.

A new ad from the Kingston campaign claims that Perdue “sat on a board promoting amnesty for illegal immigrants, a bill Obama supported.” The ad refers to a May 25, 2006, press release from the National Council of Chain Restaurants. The press release praises the Senate for passing the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act.

Perdue, however, was never a board member of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, whose board is wholly “comprised of senior executives from the nation’s leading chain restaurant companies,” according to the NCCR website. Perdue was never an executive of a chain restaurant.

Instead, Perdue, a former CEO of Dollar General and top executive with Reebok International, served on the board of the National Retail Federation from 2005-2007, according to Stephen Schatz, senior director of media relations for the NRF. The NRF, according to its website, is “the world’s largest retail trade association” and an umbrella organization to more than 100 retailer groups, including the National Council of Chain Restaurants.

Schatz told FactCheck.org in an email that the “National Council of Chain Restaurants Board is separate from the National Retail Federation Board. Mr. Perdue did not sit on the NCCR Board, and therefore did not participate in any decisions related to legislative positions endorsed by representatives of the NCCR.”

Also, Perdue has expressly stated throughout the campaign that he does not support the approach taken in the comprehensive immigration legislation.

On July 24, 2013, when Perdue formally entered the race, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that Perdue said “he would have voted against the bill recently passed by the Senate, and he said any discussion of the issue is ‘counterproductive until we secure the border.'”

In a more recent interview with the Athens Banner-Herald, Perdue was asked if he would have voted for the 2013 bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate before stalling in the House.

Perdue, July 4: I would not have, and the reason is, there are several reasons. One, it had an amnesty in there that I didn’t support. Secondly, it gave the head of the national homeland security discretion over enforcing the laws related to the border. My feeling on this thing is, in business, when you get a complicated problem, we break it down into its components. And the first component is to secure the border.

We also should note that we have written in the past that the 2013 bill was not strictly amnesty, a term that generally means immediate, permanent legal status for those who are in the country illegally. And, for that matter, neither was the 2006 bill, which would have required individuals to pay thousands of dollars in penalties and fees in order to become legal residents.

Nevertheless, Perdue does not support amnesty, and he had nothing to do with the National Council of Chain Restaurants’ endorsement of the 2006 immigration bill.

Common Core Comeback

The ad also repeats a misleading claim about Perdue’s position on the Common Core State Standards Initiative, saying that Perdue “has no problem with Obama’s Common Core.”

As we explained in May, the Common Core Standards Initiative is neither Obama’s doing nor a federal mandate, but rather a set of standards developed by states for what children from kindergarten through 12th grade should know in English and math. Perdue’s cousin, Sonny, helped launch the standards when he was governor of Georgia, and 43 states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted them. Obama has endorsed them.

Perdue has distanced himself from Common Core. He told the Marietta Daily Journal in February that he agrees with the “original intent” of the standards, but has a problem with how they are being implemented. In a later radio interview, he said: “I want to clear the air, I think Common Core is overreaching right now and should be abandoned in its current form.” His campaign website more strongly states: “We should dismantle unnecessary federal bureaucracy, including the push for Common Core, and get that funding into the classrooms.” As we noted, Common Core is a state initiative.

Finally, the ad claims that Perdue “rolled back into Georgia only a few years ago” and “backed the Wall Street bailout.” Both claims are accurate.

Perdue, a Georgia native who attended Georgia Tech, did indeed move out of the state while in charge of Reebok and Dollar General, both of which have their headquarters out of state. Perdue’s campaign website says he “has happily settled back in his home state of Georgia. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of five major corporations and is active in Perdue Partners, a Georgia-based global trading company that he co-founded.”

As for supporting the Wall Street bailout, this claim comes from a January YouTube video, which captures comments Perdue made at a campaign event at the Fayette County GOP, responding to a question regarding corporate welfare.

Perdue, Jan. 4: I believe in capitalism. I believe when companies fail, there are bankruptcy laws to deal with that. I do not support the bailout of Detroit. Now the liquidity that we put into the financial system, we got a return on that. That money came back to us. Because it was a decent investment and it came back to us.

Perdue is correct to say that the government made a return on its investment in the financial sector. According to the Treasury: “TARP’s bank programs earned significant positive returns for taxpayers. As of June 30, 2014, Treasury has recovered $273.6 billion through repayments and other income — $28.5 billion more than the $245.1 billion originally invested.”

— Alexander Nacht, with Lori Robertson