Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Sorting fact from fiction on Election Day

Democratic Congressmen Bill Pascrell, left, and Steve Rothman are facing off in today's primary for the 9th Congressional District in northern New Jersey.
Democratic Congressmen Bill Pascrell, left, and Steve Rothman are facing off in today's primary for the 9th Congressional District in northern New Jersey.

You know it’s been an interesting election season when candidates from both sides of the aisle have landed at Pants on Fire on the Truth-O-Meter.

Between congressional races and a U.S. Senate contest, Democrats and Republicans have been caught stretching the truth in the months leading up to today’s primary elections in New Jersey.

As voters head to the polls, here’s an overview of some campaign-related claims.

Rothman-Pascrell battle

No other primary battle this year has kept PolitiFact New Jersey as busy as the one between U.S. Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell, who are both Democrats.

Rothman’s Bergen County home was placed in a new district along with Republican Congressman Scott Garrett. But instead of challenging Garrett, Rothman opted to run against Pascrell today for their party’s nomination in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District.

Between news releases, debates, and campaign ads, the race turned into a bare-knuckled brawl between the two colleagues. PolitiFact New Jersey has fact-checked six claims made during the race, including two from Pascrell and four from Rothman.

In March, for example, Pascrell’s campaign claimed in a news release that Rothman opposed funding for President Barack Obama’s auto bailout, and would have let the industry slide into bankruptcy.

We discovered that Rothman in October 2008 voted against creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which was later used to assist distressed auto companies. But at the time of that vote, the money was meant to purchase troubled assets from financial institutions -- not bail out automakers.

About two months later, Rothman voted for a different type of financial assistance for U.S. automakers, but that legislation never made it out of the U.S. Senate.

Pascrell received a Half True.

As for Rothman, his lowest ruling came in May following the release of an attack ad on YouTube that claims Pascrell "wants more tax cuts for the rich."

With archival footage of wealthy people in tuxedos and cocktail dresses at a party, a snarky narrator intones: "Who wants more tax cuts for the rich? Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich and Bill Pascrell."

The ad abruptly cuts to a clip of Pascrell on MSNBC’s "Hardball with Chris Matthews," saying "Republicans had great ideas. I liked some of their ideas."

But PolitiFact New Jersey found that Pascrell's comments were in regard to reaching a bipartisan compromise on health care reform, not about providing tax cuts. In fact, the phrase "tax cuts" was never mentioned during the entire interview.

We gave Rothman a Pants on Fire.

Kyrillos seeks nomination

State Sen. Joe Kyrillos is looking to oust Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez and become the first Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from New Jersey in 40 years. In today’s primary, he is facing three other GOP candidates.

But against the Truth-O-Meter, Kyrillos hasn’t done so well.

Kyrillos’ campaign-related claims were first put to the test in February, when he said that on Menendez's watch the "annual national deficit climbed from $250 billion a year to $1.6 trillion."

The senator’s numbers were slightly off, but his larger problem was attributing the rising deficits to Menendez.

Menendez voted for some measures related to greater spending -- such as the stimulus bill and TARP -- but experts told us the recession largely contributed to the deficits as well.

Kyrillos received a Half True.

The following month, a Kyrillos claim went down in flames when he claimed that under the national health care reform, "the patient-doctor relationship will be eliminated."

Provisions in the health care law allow changes to payments to health care providers and influence what’s covered by certain insurance plans, but the reform doesn’t prevent physicians and patients from making health care decisions together.

For such a ridiculous claim, Kyrillos received a Pants on Fire.

Adler-Runyan showdown

Although they’re running unopposed in today’s primaries, the general election showdown between Democrat Shelley Adler and Republican Congressman Jon Runyan has begun taking shape. The two are running to represent the state’s 3rd Congressional District, which covers parts of southern New Jersey.

In back-to-back interviews May 4 on NJTV’s "On the Record," Adler and Runyan made claims that landed at False on the Truth-O-Meter.

Adler claimed Runyan voted to "end programs to aid homeless veterans." Runyan voted in February 2011 for a budget appropriations bill that did not fund 10,000 new housing vouchers for homeless veterans.

However, the bill maintained funding for roughly 30,000 vouchers issued in previous years. Also, Runyan later voted for another bill that included funding for new vouchers.

In a separate interview, Runyan suggested the clock is running out on Medicare, which provided healthcare coverage to 48.7 million Americans in 2011. The congressman claimed "Medicare, if we do nothing, will be gone in eight years, if we do nothing to it."

Of Medicare’s two trust funds, one is set to run out of assets in 2024, but incoming tax revenues would still cover more than 60 percent of projected costs for decades to follow. The second trust fund is to remain financially sound indefinitely.

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