Taxation and spending are two topics of political debate in which specifics can be in short supply. A notable exception is the "Fair Tax Act," introduced most recently by Republican congressman John Linder of Georgia.
The legislation specifically calls for abolishing most federal taxes - including personal and corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, and estate and gift taxes - and replacing them with a national sales tax on private consumption, home interest payments and government spending. It would have a rate of 23 percent.
Backers say the plan would be progressive on consumption and increase savings and investment. Opponents say it would be regressive and increase taxes on middle-income earners. (Detailed examinations of the proposal can be found in FactCheck.org’s "Unspinning the fair tax," published May 31, 2007, and PolitiFact.com’s "Adding up the fair tax," published Jan. 23, 2008.)
Promoted by such groups as Texas-based Americans for Fair Taxation the Ohio FairTax Association, the proposal has been embraced by many in the Tea Party movement, whose "Contract from America" supports a "single-rate tax system."
The Ohio Democratic Party says the plan is supported by Tom Ganley, the Republican challenging Rep. Betty Sutton in the 13th Congressional District. The claim is posted as a fact on a website paid for by the Democratic party that Sutton-authorized:
"Tom Ganley supports a 23 percent national sales tax that would raise taxes on the middle class while giving a huge tax break to millionaires like himself."
Just one problem: Ganley's campaign says he does not support the FairTax.
That got PolitiFact Ohio’s curiosity going. Does he or doesn't he? The answer rests on the fine line between "support" and "supportive."
Sutton's campaign cites a survey of candidates that was posted in May by Ohioans for the FairTax. It has Ganley's position checked in the category of "favorable/supports."
Steven Curtis, the group's state director, said the listing was based on discussion with Ganley's campaign staff. "They told me he was supportive," Curtis said. "They told me he was favorably inclined toward the FairTax."
That echoes a member’s posting on the Fair Tax Nation website last November, after Ganley spoke to a breakfast meeting during the Senate run he left for the congressional race: "His PR man said Tom is very supportive of the Fair Tax."
Sutton also points to a statement by Ganley on his own website: "We need to consider basing our tax structure on alternate tax methodologies such as the Fair Tax and others which can be utilized to help people invest and save."
Ganley spokeswoman Meghan Snyder said that the call for consideration does not constitute support.
"The current system is broken and ideas such as the Fair Tax and Flat Tax are on the table for consideration, but Mr. Ganley has not endorsed either plan," she said in an emailed statement. "Though there are many proposed solutions, lowering taxes to grow the private sector will ultimately help bring our country back to prosperity."
Ganley has called for "fair taxes," but we could not find his "supportive" position on the Fair Tax plan, or his stated openness to it, translating into a direct endorsement.
So there’s a shred of truth to the claim. He has called for the Fair Tax to be considered, but:
- But to carry that point further to say he has thrown his support behind it is an overstatement.
- Not explaining that it is one possibility he said should be looked at fails to raise critical facts that could give readers a different impression.
- And classifying it as a tax that would "raise taxes on the middle class while giving a huge tax break to millionaires like himself" adds in a dose of political hyperbole.
We rate this claim Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.