Thursday, November 27th, 2014

On Senate election day, the Truth-O-Meter reviews Booker, Lonegan claims

Newark Mayor Cory Booker claims the city led the country in reducing shootings and murders during his first term in office.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker claims the city led the country in reducing shootings and murders during his first term in office.

New Jerseyans go to the polls today to elect their next U.S. Senator and the candidate choices couldn’t be more stark: Democrat Cory Booker, who has served as Newark’s mayor since July 1, 2006, and Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota and a conservative activist who once helmed the state chapter of Americans For Prosperity.

The pair are vying to complete the unexpired term of Democrat rank Lautenberg, who died in June.

To date, both men have been fact-checked multiple times by PolitiFact New Jersey’s Truth-O-Meter, but Booker more so than Lonegan.

Booker has gone up against the Truth-O-Meter 16 times and has had five True rulings, five Mostly True, two Half True and four False.

The Truth-O-Meter has fact-checked Lonegan claims seven times: two rulings were True, two Half True, one Mostly False and two False.

Here are some of Booker’s claims.

Health care access

During a Planned Parenthood rally in September 2012 at the Democratic National Convention, Booker criticized Gov. Chris Christie for slashing funding to Planned Parenthood that resulted "in the reduction of hours, the elimination of days, elimination of access to women in my city and all over my state." Booker’s claim rated True. Christie eliminated nearly $7.5 million for family planning services in the fiscal year 2011 budget, leading to the closure of six family planning clinics around the state.

‘Startling’ crime data

Booker discussed crime in the Brick City during an October 2011 radio interview on WBGO, citing what he called "startling" statistics about shooting victims in the criminal justice system. Booker claimed that people shot in Newark have over an 80 percent chance of having been arrested an average of 10 times. That’s Mostly True. Booker’s claim was generally on target but should have said "shot and killed" to be completely accurate.

Brick City growth

Booker touted Newark’s growth during his State of the City address in March, noting that the state’s largest city accounted for a third of all commercial and multifamily development in New Jersey. The Truth-O-Meter rated the claim Half True because the statistic only applies when commercial real estate growth is measured in square footage. By that metric, Newark accounted for 35 percent of the state’s growth. But when other growth metrics are used – building permits and value of new construction -- Newark accounts for 3 percent of New Jersey’s total.

Newark unemployment

Ahead of his annual State of the City Address, Booker in February 2012 said Newark’s unemployment rate had fallen 2 percentage points in 2011. His data was flawed, though, because it wasn’t adjusted for seasonal fluctuations such as holiday and summer hiring. An economist with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics told us that when reviewing nonseasonally adjusted data, it’s best to compare annual averages or year-over-year data, meaning one month from one year to the same month the next year. Following that principle, Newark’s actual unemployment decrease was 0.7 percent. Booker’s claim was rated False.

To see a complete list of Booker rulings, click here.

Here are some of Lonegan’s claims.

Medical costs reimbursement

A year ago, Lonegan claimed in an opinion piece for the Asbury Park Press that changes to Medicare would lead the federal health assistance program down the path of Medicaid, which he said 60 percent of New Jersey doctors don’t accept. A study backed up Lonegan’s claim, which was rated True. The study estimated that roughly 40 percent of New Jersey doctors were accepting new Medicaid patients in 2011. The study also suggested that fewer physicians accept such patients in states with lower Medicaid payment rates.

High rates of crime, joblessness and dropouts?

Most recently, Lonegan claimed during a radio interview that Booker’s Newark had some grim statistics: an increase in violent crime during the last year that Sharpe James, Booker’s mayoral predecessor was in office; unemployment at 15 percent; and more than half the city’s high schoolers having dropped out. The Truth-O-Meter rated this claim Half True because Lonegan failed to mention various factors affecting the accuracy of each claim.

Too much money

Lonegan was among those displeased with the federal government’s $60 billion aid package to states battered by Hurricane Sandy because he said it contained too much pork-barrel spending and gave hurricane victims more political clout than residents who have lost homes to other tragegies, such as a devastating fire. In explaining the cost of the aid to taxpayers, Lonegan said the package would cost each New Jerseyan $4,200. The Truth-O-Meter noted that federal aid packages are paid by taxpayers all across the United States – not just one state. That meant the cost of the aid package divided by the total U.S. population was far below Lonegan’s estimate. His claim was Mostly False.

Social Security scheme?

Lonegan was questioning the solvency of Social Security in October 2011, questioning the solvency of the program during an interview. He said the system was broke and in a negative cash-flow situation. More than two years have passed since that claim and checks have still been cut and mailed to recipients. That’s not to say Social Security doesn’t have long-term financial problems, however. Federal projections at the time showed that scheduled benefits should continue to be paid in full for at least another 25 years. Lonegan’s claim was False.

To see a complete list of Lonegan rulings, click here.

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