Tom Ganley is the first serious challenger that Copley Township Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton has faced since she was first elected to Congress in 2006. The wealthy auto dealer from Brecksville won the GOP nod to run against her and funneled more than $2 million of his personal fortune into his campaign.
In an effort to fill her own campaign coffers, Sutton has sent fundraising missives to supporters. A fundraising email in early September from her campaign began:
"Dishonest used car dealer Tom Ganley is at it again, and this time he’s going after seniors and veterans. Recently, Ganley said that if elected, he wants to ‘cut the dickens’ out of Social Security, Medicare and Veterans’ benefits."
Does Ganley want to play Scrooge with popular entitlement programs?
AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka repeated the claim at the Lorain Labor Day Festival, where he and Sutton appeared together.
"And how about Republican candidate Tom Ganley of Akron, who wants Betty Sutton’s job?" Trumka asked the crowd. "He’s the guy with the Mercedes dealership who promises to – and I quote – ‘cut the Dickens’ out of Medicare, Social Security and Veterans’ benefits for average working people."
PolitiFact Ohio decided to take a look, and contacted Ganley campaign spokesperson, Meghan Snyder, who says it ain’t so. Ganley believes programs like Social Security should be protected and Democrats are twisting his words from an Aug. 29 interview with the conservative news site "Human Events," she says.
In that interview, Ganley said he wants to freeze all federal spending for at least a year "and then surgically attack it. National defense should be left alone, but everything else should be on the table and studied carefully. So much of the budget is now mandated, that we have to re-open entitlements. All domestic discretionary spending should have the dickens cut out of it."
According to the federal budgeting experts at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Medicare, Social Security and Veterans’ benefits are not considered discretionary spending under the federal budget. They are entitlement programs. Unlike discretionary programs, entitlements are not controlled by yearly appropriations from Congress. About a third of the federal budget is considered discretionary, including areas like education, health research and housing. Discretionary areas like those are where Ganley said "the dickens" should be cut.
We talked to AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein, who defended Trumka’s assertion. Ganley’s words to Human Events clearly state "he wants to cut everything but defense and then tags the dickens line to ‘discretionary,’ " Goldstein said. He noted that the distorted version of Ganley’s quote was also picked up by the liberal "Buckeyestateblog," and was cited in a Lorain Morning Journal "Letter to the Editor."
"I do think the quote there clearly states his intentions," Goldstein said in an email. "You are right to point out the unintended mistake in directly quoting, but there’s no question that the point is completely accurate."
Sutton campaign manager Julie Sweet sent an email that gave her rationale for claiming Ganley wants to cut "the dickens" out of particular entitlement programs, when he actually said "the dickens" should be cut from discretionary programs.
"Tom Ganley’s statement to Human Events couldn’t be any clearer: Entitlements – which his spokesperson says include Social Security, Medicare, and programs designed to benefit older Americans – should be re-opened and therefore not protected as mandatory spending. And if he doesn’t want them to be mandatory spending, he wants them to be discretionary, and he wants to cut the dickens out of discretionary spending."
We think Ganley’s statement is clear, and it doesn’t say what the campaign claims it says. Sutton could justifiably question the meaning of his assertion that entitlements should be reopened. But she’s also a veteran member of Congress who knows that’s not done easily.
And the claim that Ganley wants to "cut the dickens" out of Medicare, Social Security and Veterans programs is a leap. Ganley never told Human Events he wants to cut "the dickens" out of Social Security, Medicare and Veterans’ benefits.
That’s why we rate this as a Pants on Fire claim.