Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Final days of election: Dynamite!

Sadly, unlike Napoleon Dynamite, Georgians cannot vote for Pedro
Sadly, unlike Napoleon Dynamite, Georgians cannot vote for Pedro

We're in the election's final stretch, and politicians have dynamite in their hands.

As our sister site PolitiFact National noted in an analysis of this election season's claims, "campaigns often begin with a kernel of truth. But then they stretch it, twist it and blow it up."

In Georgia, politicians went nuclear with claims on jobs, legislation on child abuse and ethics violations.

This week's wreckage could have been far worse. We ruled Mostly True on a claim by Democratic candidate for governor Roy Barnes.

But our overall analysis of the gubernatorial campaign shows that if we had a Nastymeter, it would have spun like the Wheelie ride at Six Flags Over Georgia.

Don't try this on an empty stomach, ladies and gentlemen.

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Democratic candidate for governor Roy Barnes: "Georgia had the worst job losses in state history under GOP watch."

Most Georgians who've spent a few hours in front of a television set this fall have seen Barnes promise he'll put the state "back to work" if elected governor for a second time.

The campaign of Republican opponent Nathan Deal's campaign scoffed, so Barnes added that "Georgia had the worst job losses in state history under GOP watch," in a written response Oct. 12 to a recent Deal television ad.

Is that true? We looked at federal data. 

Barnes was governor from January 1999 to January 2003.

His administration's largest 12-month jump in unemployment was from February 2001 to February 2002. The rate rose from 3.4 percent to 4.8 percent.

During Gov. Sonny Perdue's time, the biggest jump was April 2008 to April 2009. It rose from 5.5 percent to 9.2 percent.

The Barnes campaign is technically right about the numbers. But it's difficult to say how much blame the state GOP deserves. The Great Recession was ruled by forces beyond Georgia government's control.

Mostly True.

GOP labor commissioner candidate Mark Butler: Darryl Hicks had seven ethics violations and didn't pay most of the fines.

The two leading candidates for state labor commissioner are spending time talking about who is more unethical.

Case in point, the Oct. 17 Atlanta Press Club debate.

When Democrat Hicks grilled Butler, a state representative, on whether he acted improperly in a state university employment issue, Butler denied and countered with the above attack.

Hicks, the former chief of staff to the chairman of the Fulton County Commission, lost the 2006 Democratic Party runoff for secretary of state and was late in filing disclosure reports due on Sept. 30 and Oct. 25 that year.

Hicks told us he didn't think he had to file since he lost. Most fines were paid in 2009 and this month.

Experts agreed that late filings are technically a violation, but not a serious one. And it's not the improper conduct most think of when they hear about ethics violations.

Also, most of the fines were paid. We rate Butler's attack Half True.

Nathan Deal: Roy Barnes voted against a bill in the state Senate that would have made it easier to convict child abusers.

This year's gubernatorial rivals are accusing each other of abetting evildoers.

Barnes accused Deal of fighting in 1991 to weaken laws that protect rape victims. We ruled that claim Half True.

In response, Deal's camp made the above accusation.

Did Barnes side with villains?

When Barnes was a state legislator in 1995, he voted against a bill that would have allowed a type of hearsay evidence to be used during trial in cases of child abuse.

Barnes said he thought the bill was unconstitutional. The bill failed, but its language was added to another bill that became law.

Three years later, the state Supreme Court sided with Barnes.

Since the law was unconstitutional, the language ultimately did not make it easier to convict child abusers. Still, the constitutionality of the bill was not certain in 1995. Since Barnes did vote against it, there is a sliver of truth to Deal's accusation.

Therefore we rule Deal's claim Barely True.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "More private-sector jobs were created in the first eight months of 2010 than in the eight years of the Bush administration."

Pelosi must really like this talking point. She used it on MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" on Oct. 21 and PBS' "Charlie Rose Show" on Oct. 20.

We turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics to check out her claim. During President George W. Bush's first term starting in January 2001, the country lost 673,000 private-sector jobs.

Pelosi's statement is accurate, but it's a classic case of cherry-picking.

First, Pelosi cited private-sector employment, not total employment, which includes private- and public-sector jobs. It increased under Bush by 1.08 million, but 599,000 in 2010.

Second, Pelosi chose her start and end dates in a way that's highly favorable to President Barack Obama and unfavorable to Bush.

You could argue that it's unfair to blame Obama for job losses early in his tenure. Still, Pelosi drew the lines for her comparison as artfully as state legislatures draw lines defining congressional districts.

Half True.

The campaigns of Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes: Vow to keep Georgia's race for governor "civil” and focused on the "positive.”

Well, everybody seemed to be on the same page when it all started.

The race between former Gov. Barnes and former Congressman Deal for governor was to be a civil affair about real issues.

In a TV interview, Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said Deal would offer "a positive vision." Barnes hoped to run a "civil and polite" campaign.

Oh, how times have changed. This race will go down as one of the nastiest in recent Georgia history.

Some lowlights: A Barnes commercial called Deal "slipperier than a bag of snakes.” A YouTube video by a Deal ally called Barnes, an attorney, an "ambulance chaser."

Barnes accused Deal of pushing for a law that helped accused rapists, an accusation we ruled Half True. Deal accused Barnes of siding with child molesters and abusers, which was Barely True.

The list goes on.

Smoke is rising from this gubernatorial battleground. We give both the Deal and Barnes campaigns our lowest rating: Pants On Fire.