Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Before you vote, check the Truth-O-Meter

Over the last several months, candidates have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to build themselves up and knock their opponents down.

There have been attacks and counterattacks, scary TV ads, robo-calls and oversized campaign fliers clogging our mailboxes -- in other words, the fuel that sent our Truth-O-Meter into overdrive.

Just in the weeks since the September primary, we issued two dozen rulings on claims made by candidates for federal and statewide offices. Not surprisingly, many were way off base. And -- perhaps surprisingly -- many were true.

With the election just two days away, we decided to take a look back at some of our campaign rulings to help voters make up their minds.  Here’s a sampling from key races:

1st Congressional District
U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline, a Democrat, and former state police superintendent Brendan Doherty, a Republican, have engaged in one of the most spirited, and at times mean-spirited, campaigns in years. We spent much of the last two months putting their claims to the test.

Doherty focused many of his attacks on Cicilline’s political record. In one news release, Doherty said Cicilline, while a state representative in the 1990s, "opposed mandatory sentences for people convicted of domestic violence and child abuse." Our ruling: True.

In a separate attack, Doherty said Cicilline "espoused Providence as a sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants when he was mayor. But Doherty presented no evidence that Cicilline had ever taken that position and the record shows he opposed it. Our ruling: False.

Cicilline cited his record as mayor during a debate, saying that, under his watch, the city "had the lowest crime rate in 30 years," a fact supported by Providence police and FBI statistics. Our ruling: True.

In another debate, responding to an allegation by Doherty, Cicilline said that Providence’s internal auditor had not been "locked out" of access to financial records. We found that he wasn’t physically locked out but had to go to great lengths to get basic information. Our ruling: Mostly False.

2nd Congressional District
Incumbent Rep. James R. Langevin, a Democrat, was asked about energy policy during one of his debates with Republican challenger Michael P. Riley.

Langevin said the United States should tap whatever natural resources it can, adding that under President Obama, "we are drilling and producing more domestic energy supplies than we ever had before."

Our research showed that Langevin had his facts right -- energy production, including natural gas, is at an all-time high -- but we also found it was misleading to attribute that to Mr. Obama, rather than market forces, which play the biggest role. Our ruling: Half True.

Riley, in a post on his campaign’s Facebook page, accused Langevin of joining President Obama in cutting $716 billion from Medicare -- an oft-repeated Republican attack.

Mr. Obama did direct $716 billon away from future Medicare spending to help fund his health care law by, among other things, reducing reimbursements to health care providers and insurers. But calling it a cut leaves the impression the $716 billion is being taken away from money already allocated. Our ruling: Half True

U.S. Senate
A big part of incumbent Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s campaign has been his promise to protect Social Security, which he said is projected to remain solvent through 2033. In a news release, he advocated raising the cap on Social Security payroll taxes, saying it would extend the life of the program 75 years beyond 2033.

In fact, the measure would extend the program’s life 75 years from now, not 2033. Our Ruling: Mostly True.

Republican Barry Hinckley has attacked Whitehouse -- an advocate for campaign finance reforms -- for taking money from special interest groups, including political action committees.  Hinckley said 30 percent of the senator’s reelection money came from such groups.

In fact, by some definitions of "special interests," Whitehouse gets as much as 70 to 80 percent from them. While Hinckley’s number was way low, his point was well taken. Our ruling: Mostly True.

You can see all the scorecards for each candidate by clicking on the red "People" tab at the top of this page and finding the name. You can also search rulings by Subject, such as Social Security or Medicare, by clicking that tab.

Don’t forget to vote Tuesday. And if you see or hear any claims you’d like us to check in the aftermath of the election, send them to politifact@providencejournal.com.