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 V.13 No.13 | March 25 - 31, 2004 

Thin Line

Bookmark it. Now here's a cause that's as noble as the challenge. FactCheck.org wants to reduce the level of confusion and deception in political TV ads.

Most recently the website scrutinized the Bush/Cheney ads that ran in New Mexico over the past few weeks. The website, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found that of the four ads all are "nearly devoid of factual claims for us to check," but instead likened the desired effect to "a flag-waving psalm to the American spirit." Only one ad, which claimed George W. Bush inherited a recession in January, 2001, when he took office, was factually incorrect. Federal economists did not identify a recession until March, 2001.

Interestingly, the Bush campaign sent an e-mail to six million GOP supporters that included a link to an Internet video attacking John Kerry. The campaign did not offer the spot up to the cable networks, but FactCheck reviewed it and said this more partisan ad did convey obvious false information.

The Bush ad claims Kerry got "more special interest money than any other senator."

FactCheck writes: "While it is true that Kerry got $640,000 over the past 15 years from individual lobbyists, that's only one type of special-interest money. And the Bush campaign itself has reported raising $960,000 from individual lobbyists in the past year alone."

The ad says Kerry got "millions from executives at HMOs, telecoms, drug companies," which is true—for Kerry's entire political career, although no timeline is given.

"But so far Kerry's presidential campaign has received a small fraction of what the Bush campaign has received from those particular sources," the FactCheck website reports. "By any definition, Bush's ’special interest' money greatly exceeds Kerry's."

The website also lists a host of other senators, Democrats and Republicans alike, who received more special interest money from lobbyists than Kerry.

FactCheck also scrutinizes the latest TV ad from the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, which says, "George Bush wants to eliminate overtime pay for eight million workers," referring to new overtime rules that the Department of Labor has proposed. The eight million figure (hotly denied by the Bush administration, of course) comes from a study by the Economic Policy Institute, which includes several labor union leaders on its board of directors.

FactCheck says the ad misquotes the study. “What the study actually says is that an estimated eight million would lose the legal right to premium overtime rates should they work more than 40 hours per week. It does not say they would actually lose pay as the ad says. In fact, the eight million figure is inflated by many part-time workers who never get overtime work, or overtime pay, even though they now have the right to it.”

FactCheck's final analysis: “The ad might truthfully have said, ’George Bush wants to change overtime rules for millions of workers and some of them might lose pay.' That would soften the ad's impact, but it would have the virtue of being factually correct.”

Check back to see if either of the leading candidates' ads are full of baloney in the future. There is nothing on the website that indicates the participating scholars care about anything other than analyzing the statements in ads and checking the facts so you the voter can be more informed.


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