A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Spotlight On: Allen Stenger

Allen Stenger’s rule of thumb is that “statements by politicians about numbers are always wrong.”
That’s not always the case, of course, but he gave us a good example: A recent mailer from New Mexico’s Republican Party claimed that “New Mexico workers have a jobs problem.” But the flier refers to the national unemployment rate, which has been worse than New Mexico’s.
“I’m active in the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce, so I knew that a mailer claiming New Mexico workers have a job problem because the unemployment rate was above 8% had to be wrong,”

Spotlight On: Michael James

Michael James said he had to pull over his car when he heard Rush Limbaugh in a radio ad endorsing Missouri’s lieutenant governor.
Limbaugh claimed his old friend Peter Kinder “banned taxpayer-funded travel for politicians” when he led the state Senate.
“It sounded outrageous,” James said. “Obviously politicians have to travel. And they don’t do that with their own money if it’s official state business.”
James uploaded the ad to Spin Detectors. We found Limbaugh’s claim went too far.

Spotlight On: Chris Masoner

Chris Masoner went to law school. He’s familiar with the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which states that federal law “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”
So, a recent campaign mailer failed to fool him. The flier claimed a proposed amendment to Kansas’ Constitution would have allowed residents “to vote to opt-out of Obama’s new health care law.”
“It’s just not true,” Masoner said.
Masoner, 39, of Lenexa, Kan., sent the campaign mailer and a similar one from the same group to Spin Detectors.

Spotlight On: Burton ‘Bud’ Gotshall

Burton “Bud” Gotshall knew the Republican primary race in his Florida congressional district was going to get ugly. The proof arrived in his mailbox this week.
Gotshall received a campaign mailer from veteran Rep. John Mica, who is running against freshman Rep. Sandy Adams because of congressional redistricting. Mica has been in Congress for 20 years. Adams is aligned with the tea party and has the support of Sarah Palin.
Mica’s mailer accuses Adams of being someone President Barack Obama “counted on”

Spotlight On: Jim Watson

Jim Watson was immediately skeptical of American Commitment’s attack ad, which he saw on Facebook.
The ad’s narrator claimed Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, voted to increase electricity costs while displaying the text, “Ohio: Electric Bills Will Skyrocket.”

“Like all political ads, the extreme language (skyrocket) and the improbable idea that anyone would actually vote for electric rates to go up, was too much to resist,” Watson wrote to us in an email. “I knew it was an attack ad,

Spotlight On: Richard Rowlands

Richard Rowlands describes himself as liberal. But he subscribes to several conservative groups’ email lists “just to keep track of what they’re doing and saying.”
One such group is AmeriPAC, which claims in a fundraising email that President Barack Obama is raising gas prices to pay for failed green energy companies.
Rowlands, 70, a retired psychologist who lives in Saco, Maine, forwarded the email to Spin Detectors. We found that AmeriPAC supports its conspiracy theory with misleading claims and twisted facts.

Spotlight On: John Heath

John Heath said he’s skeptical of claims that portray the government as incompetent.
So, he was suspicious of a recent Web video produced by Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin. The video depicts a program that subsidizes phone service for very low-income persons as a government giveaway that is costing taxpayers billions.
Heath, 28, uploaded the video to Spin Detectors. We found the video goes too far in its portrayal of the program, calling it “taxpayer funded” when it’s not,

Spotlight On: Mark DiBiasio

Mark DiBiasio is a registered Republican in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, which means his mailbox is brimming with campaign mailers.
Ten Republicans are trying to win the May 8 primary this year. But one particular candidate, wealthy businessman and former state Sen. Robert Pittenger, is bombarding voters with glossy paper.
“I get half a dozen fliers from him in the same week – sometimes twice a day,” said DiBiasio, 55, an IT consultant who runs a local blog in the Charlotte suburbs.

Spotlight On: Charles Bertram

When Charles Bertram received a letter from Mitt Romney asking him for money, the Floridian was amused. Bertram is a Democrat — and has been since the late 1970s.
“There was a line in there or something about liberals that just galled me,” the 60-year-old said.
Bertram uploaded the letter to the Spin Detectors website. We found several of the letter’s claims to be false, including Romney’s claim that the rates of unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies are “soaring”

Spotlight On: John Totten

John Totten said he often looks out for his friends and family by emailing them FactCheck.org articles.
When he came across a conservative group’s TV ad about North Carolina’s budget battle, Totten thought of a cousin who lives in that state and uploaded the video to Spin Detectors.
We found that Americans for Prosperity omitted some important information in its ad attacking the Democratic governor and praising the Republican-controlled state legislature. For example, the ad says the legislature added state funding for “2,000 more teachers” and that its budget “adds teachers.” But the legislature’s increased funding didn’t make up for the loss of federal money and discretionary state funds that local districts use to hire teachers.