Saturday, October 25th, 2014

PAC's newspaper ad filled with falsehoods

The ad from the Government is Not God PAC ran in newspapers in Florida and Ohio.
The ad from the Government is Not God PAC ran in newspapers in Florida and Ohio.

Updated Sept. 28, 2012

A full-page newspaper ad running in swing states purports to reveal "the true agenda of Barack Hussein Obama." It says he will:

"Force Christian organizations to pay for abortions."

"Force employers to give illegal immigrants the jobs of U.S. citizens."

"Force police agencies to allow Muslim brotherhood to select staff."

" Force creation of a permanent government funded ‘underclass.’ "

It’s from a political action committee that operates under the name "Government is Not God," or GING-PAC for short. The group claims the ad has run in 19 newspapers in Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Pennsylvania.

Compared with other outside spending groups, GING-PAC is a relatively small player. It started in 1994 and has spent less than $100,000 in most elections, supporting Republicans such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Missouri U.S. Rep. Todd Akin. (Akin is the Senate candidate who said women rarely get pregnant from "legitimate rape.")

The group’s latest ad found its largest audience when it ran in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Sunday. The Herald-Tribune, citing policy, would not disclose the ad’s cost. The ad has also reportedly run in Florida newspapers that serve Bonifay, Cross City, Gilchrist, Madison and Winter Haven.

The ad’s claims riled some voters in Sarasota, including Kindra Muntz, an activist who previously worked to get Florida’s electronic voting replaced with paper ballots. She’s organizing a protest in front of the newspaper’s offices Sept. 27, 2012.

"It’s an insult to people’s intelligence, really. ... It steps on just about everyone, and drags them into somebody’s hate agenda," Muntz said.

On Wednesday, the Herald-Tribune apologized in a note to readers, stating that the ad did not meet the newspaper’s "standards for fairness and accuracy."

Here at PolitiFact, we wondered if the ad’s claims had any merit. We looked into them, except one that was too vague to analyze, that Obama would "force creation of a permanent government funded 'underclass.'" All the ratings are here; some we've also expanded into separate fact-checks.

We contacted GING-PAC and asked for evidence for the group’s claims. William J. Murray said the group didn’t need evidence because it was making predictions.

"If a politician is willing to walk you halfway to hell, it is likely that he will walk you the rest of the way there," Murray said via email.

The ad's claims are not couched as predictions, however, but as representations of Obama's actual policies and proposals. We've fact-checked their points by comparing them with Obama's previous positions, his proposals for a second term, and his public comments.

"Force police agencies to allow Muslim brotherhood to select staff"

We found nothing in Obama’s stated policies or positions to support this claim. Still, we ran it by Phil Lynn, director of the National Law Enforcement Policy Center, a division of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He said he’d never heard of the claim, and that most states and local agencies have boards that control hiring and firing decisions.

"Trying to force this on local jurisdictions would be irregular and out of place," Lynn said. "I would think many states would balk at it."

Such an idea is not only unconstitutional, it’s also ridiculous, said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

"It just doesn’t make any sense," said Howard Simon. "It’s incoherent that a police agency would give an outside group the power to pick its own staff."

We found no evidence that Obama’s ever mentioned anything like this. We rate this statement Pants on Fire.

"Force doctors to assist homosexuals in buying surrogate babies"

Experts who follow issues involving same-sex couples and parenthood were perplexed by this one. "We have no idea what this claim is based on," said Eleanor Nicoll, public affairs manager for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Plus, buying babies is illegal. We rate this one Pants on Fire.

"Force employers to give illegal immigrants the jobs of U.S. citizens"

This is a preposterous claim that, in one interpretation, suggests that Obama wants to deny jobs to U.S. citizens and give them to illegal immigrants. We’re not sure how that would even work. Would employers be forced to seek out illegal immigrants, verify their legal status, hire them and then confirm that they took the jobs of legal citizens?

If anything, the Obama administration’s record shows an increasingly tougher stance on the hiring of unauthorized workers. The number of employers hit with penalties rose more than 20-fold, from 18 in 2008 to 385 in 2011. In the same period, total fines increased from $675,000 to $9.2 million. Use of the electronic employee verification system, E-Verify, quadrupled, from 88,000 employers in 2008 to 354,000 in 2012.

GING-PAC points to the president’s executive order to defer deportation of illegal immigrants under 30 who have no criminal record, have graduated or are in school and have lived in the country for more than five years. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 700,000 18 to 30-year-olds might be immediately eligible and could apply for the two-year work permits. Over time, the number would rise to 1.7 million. Bob Dane with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that favors stronger immigration controls, said this could put these people in competition for jobs.

"The people will still be illegal," Dane said. "And they would be taking a job from a U.S. citizen."

Things could go that way. But there’s still nothing forcing employers to hire anyone except who they want. We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

"Force states to pay the college tuition of illegal immigrants' children"

This claim conflates several issues related to immigration. To begin with, children of illegal immigrants born in the United States are citizens. A federal court recently overturned a Florida law that denied in-state tuition to the citizen children of illegal immigrants who were Florida residents. Immigration experts said the federal government couldn’t force states to pay college tuition for immigrants -- or for any other students, for that matter. We rate this claim False.

"Force all states to permit same-sex 'marriages' "

The ad’s basis for this is the president’s opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage as between a man and woman.

Is opposing the law the same thing as wanting to force all states to permit same-sex marriages? Not according to Obama. "I continue to believe that this is an issue that is gonna be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue," he said in a May interview, adding, "I think it is a mistake to try to make what has traditionally been a state issue into a national issue."

Even if Obama changed his mind, he would have to introduce legislation in Congress to require states to recognize gay marriages. And even if that passed, it would likely be unconstitutional, according to Dale Carpenter, a civil rights professor at the University of Minnesota. "The court has explicitly said that family law is a matter for states to decide," he said. We rate the ad’s claim False.

"Force Christian organizations to pay for abortions"

Under the 2010 health care law, Christian organizations won’t be "forced" to hand over money for abortion procedures performed at clinics by doctors. But the law does expand coverage requirements for preventive care. And preventive care, as defined by the Obama administration, includes birth control, emergency contraceptives and sterilization -- and some people equate those services with abortion.

The administration created an exemption for religious organizations by requiring insurance companies to pay for those services. But anti-abortion groups say the exemption is just a shell game.
   
That controversy is real, but the ad’s claim creates a misleading impression. We rate the claim Mostly False.

"Force Christian schools to hire non-Christian teachers"

The only basis for this claim is a 2012 Supreme Court decision involving a teacher who said she  lost her job in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She sued to get her job at a private Christian school back. The federal government supported her case, but the court unanimously ruled against her on First Amendment grounds.

The case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, did address the proper balance between the government and religious institutions in personnel decisions at schools. But even participants in the case say it had nothing to do with ordering schools to hire people. We rate this claim False.

"Force courts to accept Islamic Sharia Law in domestic disputes"

There have been isolated instances when U.S. courts have used sharia law. But we couldn’t find any instances of the Obama administration supporting that.

On top of that, the notion would violate the separation of powers, said Glenn Hendrix, an Atlanta-based attorney and past chair of the American Bar Association’s section on International Law. Hendrix said there’s no substance to the ad’s claim.

"Even if the administration were somehow pushing sharia law -- and of course it’s not -- the executive branch cannot force courts to accept any particular law," Hendrix said.

We rate the statement Pants on Fire.

"Force local authorities to allow Occupy protesters to live in parks"

Occupy Wall Street is a loosely organized movement that draws attention to income inequality. In 2011, it set up camp in New York City’s Zuccotti Park and then spread to other cities.

Protesters have a First Amendment right to peaceably assemble, but local governments are generally allowed to enforce time and place restrictions on those gatherings. A 1984 Supreme Court opinion said governments may outlaw sleeping in parks, even during protests.

We couldn’t find any evidence that Obama or his administration opposed existing law on this point. Also, a president can’t overturn a Supreme Court decision anyway. We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

Obama is "the only President in history who has deliberately removed the words 'endowed by their Creator' when referring to our Declaration of Independence, not once, but several times"

The ad ends with a tagline accusing Obama of taking some godless liberties with the language in the Declaration of Independence. And indeed, we did find video of him paraphrasing that famous line, leaving out the "creator." Several conservative websites appear to be tracking his omissions.

But there’s also video evidence of him saying those words -- the blog of the liberal group People for the American Way even put together a compilation video of Obama reciting the "endowed by their creator" language. And the site UrbandLegends.com dug up examples of other presidents paraphrasing the Declaration and omitting the "creator." Which presidents, you ask? Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

We rate the statement False.

"Force military chaplains to perform same-sex 'marriages' "

To back up this one, Murray sent us links to articles from conservative news sites the Blaze and Breitbart.com.

The evidence? The White House’s Office of Management and Budget had opposed part of a defense bill that would, according to the Blaze, "protect military chaplains who refuse to perform gay marriage ceremonies against their religious beliefs." Seemed like pretty good evidence that the alternative might be true: in the White House’s preferred world, military chaplains wouldn’t be able to refuse!

The reality? The Defense Department already protects chaplains from performing ceremonies that contradict their religious beliefs. The defense bill provision (which didn’t pass) was much broader — which is why the White House opposed it. Meanwhile, a group that advocates for gay and lesbian service members hasn’t heard any inkling that the president would want to force chaplains to perform same-sex marriages.

"If that were true, it'd be absurd," said David McKean, legal director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

We rate the claim Pants on Fire.