Presidential politics keeps Truth-O-Meter busy

Happy Birthday, Newt Gingrich! Your gift: two fact checks from the Truth-O-Meter.
Happy Birthday, Newt Gingrich! Your gift: two fact checks from the Truth-O-Meter.

Presidential campaign politics put the Truth-O-Meter on overdrive.

Two of Georgia’s sons are angling for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, and they  gave us plenty of fodder last week. We took on statements by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich on government waste and right-to-work states, and former radio host and Godfather’s  Pizza CEO Herman Cain on Islamic law.

We also marked a milestone. The Deal-O-Meter handed Gov. Nathan Deal his first "Promise Broken." Deal accepted a perk from Delta airline, which broke his policy on accepting gifts.

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Republican Presidential Candidate Herman Cain: Muslims tried to use Sharia law to influence court decisions in New Jersey and Oklahoma

Reporters have dogged Cain on the subject of Muslim appointees since March, when he said he would not appoint a Muslim because Islam demands they follow Sharia law, above all others -- including the U.S. Constitution.  

When the moderator of the June 13 Republican primary debate raised the issue again, Cain made the above claim.

Oklahoma voters passed a state constitutional amendment that would prevent the use of Sharia law in state courts, but supporters found no instance where Sharia law was used in the courts.

A New Jersey judge considered Islamic law when he denied a request for a restraining order. However, since the issue arose only when the judge questioned the couple’s imam, it is unfair to accuse Muslims of trying to impose Sharia law.  
Barely True.

Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich: "The right-to-work states are creating a lot more jobs today than the heavily unionized states."

This claim, made by Gingrich during last week’s CNN debate of Republican presidential candidates that was like red meat to conservatives who complain that government is trying to force employees to join unions.

So we checked it out.    

There was a slight increase in the number of private-sector jobs in the 22 right-to-work states during the past decade and post recession. In the 28 other states, there was a small decrease in both time periods.
Nine of the nation’s 10 fastest-growing states over the past decade were right-to-work states. Five had increases in job growth since April 2001, but population growth in those states may also be a factor.
By our analysis, Gingrich’s statement that job growth is higher in right-to-work states has merit. We rate this claim True.

Promise: ‘No gift’ policy for himself and staff

One of Nathan Deal’s first acts as governor upon taking office earlier this year was to sign an executive order banning gifts greater than $25 to himself and his staff. Since he promised such a policy on the campaign trail, we gave Deal a "Promise Kept."
Then on Sunday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Deal and his wife received upgraded travel status after Deal agreed to a $30 million tax break for the airline.

One critic called it a ‘thank you’ for signing a bill that gave Delta a tax break. The governor’s office strongly denied the allegation.

Deal’s office stresses that it will use the upgraded Delta status for business travel. However, it can be used for personal use since it was written on the lobbyist reports in the names of the Deals and not the state of Georgia.
Deal appears to be violating his own gift policy. We therefore change our ruling to "Promise Broken."

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich: Every tenth dollar paid out by the Social Security Administration on its program for the poor is waste fraud, or given to people who cannot prove they qualify for it.

Gingrich made this statement on the Neal Boortz Radio Show on Atlanta’s AM 750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB. He was trying to explain why he thinks the federal government is inept.

We checked Gingrich’s figures with an article by the Associated Press, testimony from the SSA’s inspector general and data from, the web site of the federal payment accuracy improvement program.

Gingrich was right that every tenth dollar paid out by the SSA’s program for the poor was made improperly. But the total amount of improper payments by the program are estimated at $4.8 billion, not $8 billion. The larger amount is for the entire SSA.

Since SSI makes billions of dollars in improper payments that account for a majority of the SSA’s problem, Gingrich’s broader point holds true. We therefore give him a Mostly True.



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