Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Axelrod takes on the Republicans on This Week

David Axelrod made his party's case on This Week with Christiane Amanpour
David Axelrod made his party's case on This Week with Christiane Amanpour

As Democrats try to head off a surging Republican offensive in the midterm elections, David Axelrod took to the airwaves to challenge some of the GOP's priorities.

On Sept. 26, 2010, Axelrod appeared on ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour. We've taken a look at one of his comments, and we're working on a second one.

On This Week, Axelrod took aim at the House Republicans' governing blueprint, "A Pledge to America" and specifically zeroed in on the Republican plan for education.

"When you look at that Pledge to America, it is a complete echo of what was done before," Axelrod said. "It would borrow $700 billion to cut taxes for the very wealthy, add trillions of dollars to the deficits. It would unleash the special interests to be writing rules here on Capitol Hill again. And it would cut things like -- there's a 20 percent cut in there for education. We're talking about our economy. Education is the defense budget of the -- economic defense budget of the 21st century, and they're basically talking about disarmament. Eight million kids would have their college aid slashed under this budget. This isn't a prescription for economic growth; this is a prescription for surrender. We can't do that."

We checked whether the House GOP really intends to cut education funding by 20 percent and whether 8 million students would see their aid "slashed."

The claims were tricky to evaluate, due to complexities in the budgeting process, and we settled on a mixed verdict. The "Pledge" document didn't mention education itself, but House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, did suggest a 20 percent cut in a separate proposal he made a few weeks earlier. And we found that Axelrod's calculations reasonable. On balance, we rated Axelrod's comment Half True.

Axelrod was also asked about the growing influence of Republican strategist Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush, who is affiliated with American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, organizations that are spending millions on ads attacking Democratic candidates.

"Here's the thing about Karl Rove and what he's doing," Axelrod said. "The insidious thing about it is they are funding negative ads all over the country against Democratic candidates paid for by major corporate special interests who don't have to disclose their participation, the oil industry, Wall Street, insurance industry. We put a bill in the United States Congress asking one thing -- and this was a loophole that was opened by the Supreme Court earlier in this year -- we put a bill in the Congress saying, disclose who is funding these campaigns. Let the American people know who's paying for these ads. It's a very simple premise."

Axelrod was talking about the 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court on Jan. 21, 2010 in the landmark case Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which struck down barriers to corporations spending money directly from their own treasuries to influence elections. And the bill that Axelrod said would close that loophole is the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Election, or DISCLOSE, Act, which was recently derailed in the Senate.

Obama has warned that such groups could be using money from entities that are foreign controlled. But Axelrod went one step further and said they are front groups for foreign-controlled companies. That might make for a powerful sound bite, but we concluded that it's a concern, not a known fact. While we think it's defensible for Obama and Axelrod to express concern that the Citizens United decision has created the opportunity for foreign companies to use money to try to influence the upcoming elections, we don't see any evidence to support (or disprove) that it is actually happening. So we rated Axelrod's comment Barely True.