A look at claims from Lincoln Chafee

Former R.I. Gov. Lincoln Chafee on CNN April 12, 2015, explains why he would make a good presidential candidate.
Former R.I. Gov. Lincoln Chafee on CNN April 12, 2015, explains why he would make a good presidential candidate.

The Democratic field for the presidential nomination may not be as crowded as its Republican counterpart, but some big names have thrown their hats into the ring.

PolitiFact already summarized fact checks of the presumptive Democratic frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Today, we turn to Lincoln Chafee, a longtime Republican who served as U.S. Senator from Rhode Island before leaving the party and serving a term as the state’s governor as an independent-turned Democrat.

We have fact-checked 16 statements by Chafee, and his record is as mixed as his political lineage.

During the four years that he served as governor of the smallest state, only twice did PolitiFact judge one of his statements Half True. More often, the Truth-O-Meter swung back and forth from True to False as Chafee battled a stagnant economy and a hostile General Assembly.

See them the fact-checks at http://www.politifact.com/personalities/lincoln-chafee/.

Here’s a sampling.

The state budget proposal has been submitted "on time and [it's] the earliest that a governor has done so in over two decades."  Lincoln Chafee in his Jan. 16th, 2013 State of the State

In his third year as Rhode Island governor, Lincoln Chafee used his State of the State to tout his $8.2 billion 2013-2014 budget.

Chafee declared that the budget he was submitting to the General Assembly on Jan. 16th is "on time and the earliest that a governor has done so in over two decades."

State law requires governors to submit their budgets to the Legislature by the third Thursday in January, if it is not their first year in office. Chafee bested the deadline by one day.

The early date is designed to allow lawmakers time to analyze spending and projects before approving statewide spending.

Our research showed that in the previous 25 years, no governor has submitted a budget bill by deadline. In fact, the earliest the budget bill had been submitted was Feb. 1, which the previous governor did in 2005 and 2007 and Chafee did in 2012.

We rated his statement True.

"The commercial property tax [in Providence] is second highest in the country behind Detroit." Lincoln Chafee in a Feb. 3rd, 2012 news show

Chafee flexed his Republican muscles in 2012, when he pledged to ease the burden on property taxpayers in Rhode Island.  

He pointed to the negative effects of relying too much on property taxes in struggling communities, such as the capital city of Providence, where the city and tax-exempt nonprofits were locked in battle.

"And no wonder there’s empty stores in Providence," he said. "The commercial property tax is second highest in the country behind Detroit."

Chafee cited a Providence report that takes its data from a 2010 by the nonpartisan Minnesota Taxpayers Association and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

The Minnesota study says that Providence has the second-highest tax burden in its comparison of 53 cities and also that it would also rank second if it were included in comparisons to the nation’s largest cities.

The right-leaning Tax Foundation ranks Providence third for commercial property taxes by one measurement, but different ways of comparing tax burdens could account for the difference.

In other words, there is ample evidence to back up the claim, but nothing definitive to discount it.

We rated the claim Mostly True.

"Experts say the property tax "is the most harmful to economic growth and . . . the sales tax is least harmful." Lincoln Chafee in a Nov. 3rd, 2010 news conference

Chafee wasn’t always on the mark when talking taxes, including when he was pushing his campaign proposal to impose a 1-percent sales tax on items that had been exempt in Rhode Island.

"I do firmly believe, as the experts have said, that (property taxes are) the most harmful to economic growth and that's what we want in the state, economic growth. And the sales tax is least harmful to economic growth," Chafee said in his first news conference as governor-elect.

He used data from a researcher at the Tax Foundation, which ranks states as business-friendly based on several kinds of taxes.

That data showed that Rhode Island gets much more state and local revenue from property taxes and less from the sales tax than the national average.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international agency founded to help its 33 member countries find the best economic policies, though, found that property taxes do the least damage to economic growth.

In the end, there is no consensus among the experts. And even data backing Chafee’s point is qualified, depending on the specific circumstances and proposals.

Those are caveats Chafee didn’t make. We rated this claim Mostly False.

"The InterLink at T.F. Green Airport is the closest air-rail link in the country." Lincoln Chafee in a news conference on Jan. 11th, 2012.

Chafee was a longtime proponent of a $267 million "Interlink" intermodal transportation hub that created easy access to passengers to get to their flights by getting to the Providence airport by rail.

The hub allows passengers to get off a train and go just 1,570 feet on moving walkways into the airport’s terminal.

The Interlink is "the closest air-rail link in the country," Chafee said in a news conference about the hub.

That’s a big claim considering that Cleveland’s Hopkins International Airport became the first in the country to link to commuter rail in 1968, and several other major airports – of course Hartsfield-Jackson International here in Atlanta – have since made that connection to commuter and light rail.

State transportation officials clarified that the claim should have been that the Interlink is the "the closest air-to-Amtrak rail line in the country."

But either way, the claim is wrong.

Several major airports have closer commuter links, including one that bisects the Philadelphia International Airport with terminals on one side and baggage claim on the other.

And Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport is closer to an Amtrak line. Plus, it has something the Providence airport does not: an actual Amtrak station.

We rated the claim False.

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ROAD TO 2016

Lincoln Chafee

Age: 62, born March 26, 1953; Warwick, R.I.

Political party: Democrat

Political experience:  Warwick (R.I.) City Council, 1986 to 1990. Warwick (R.I.) mayor, 1992 to 1999. Appointed to U.S. Senator for Rhode Island, 1999 to fill the unexpired term of his late father. Elected to U.S. Senate in 2000 to one six-year term. Elected governor of Rhode Island as an independent in 2010.

Business: Worked as a blacksmith at harness racetracks for seven year before working in manufacturing and as an advocate for clean energy.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in classics from Brown University, 1975. After Brown, he attended the Montana State University horseshoeing school in Bozeman.

Family: Wife, Stephanie, and three children.

Interesting factoid: Chafee a Republican until he won Rhode Island governor as an independent in 2010. He switched to the Democratic Party in 2013. He was the only Senate Republican to vote against the use of military force in Iraq. He attended the exclusive prep school Phillips Academy (known as Andover) with GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

Biography sources: www.Chafee2016.com, NPR