Friday, October 24th, 2014

Ad Watch: On ants, offices and the stimulus

Crossroads GPS began running this ad in Virginia on July 10.

Crossroads GPS, a conservative advocacy group, is running a new TV ad in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race making some old claims.

The 30-second spot shows Democrat nominee Tim Kaine endorsing President Barack Obama’s $821 billion stimulus package that the Democratic-led Congress approved in 2009 with hopes of jumpstarting the economy.

The moderator says the stimulus "actually wasted money studying ants in Africa," and paying for "office upgrades for politicians."

Crossroads -- a group affiliated with Karl Rove, the former chief political adviser to President George W. Bush -- made similar statements in a Virginia ad that ran last November. Let’s take an updated look at the claims.

The ants

We’ve rated this claim True. The National Science Foundation in 2009  announced it awarded a  five-year stimulus grant estimated at $1.9 million for studying ants near the Southwest Indian Ocean, including the coastal areas of Mozambique and Tanzania.

We won’t weigh in on whether the money was "wasted" on the ants project because that’s a matter of opinion. We noted last November that researchers said the project could provide insight into climate change, the spread of disease and how to better control pest ants in the U.S.

The offices for politicians

We rated this claim Mostly False last November.  It centers on a $39 million renovation of the Kansas statehouse.

But the money in question is not a direct payment of stimulus funds. Instead, it’s a bond provided by the Build America Bonds -- a program created by the stimulus through which the federal government pays for 35 percent of the interest on the loan.

It’s the state, not the federal government, that pays back the principal and most of the interest.

Another problem with the claim is that office upgrades are one small piece of a major renovation of the entire Kansas Statehouse, which is more than a century old. Work includes replacing the leaky limestone exterior, installing new heating and air conditioning and getting rid of old electrical wiring.

Kaine certainly was a supporter of the stimulus, but we wondered if he ever specifically supported the ants or statehouse projects listed in the Crossroads ad. Brandi Hoffine, a spokeswoman with the Kaine campaign said he did not.

Nate Hodson, a spokesman for Crossroads GPS said the ad is not claiming that Kaine lobbied for stimulus support for the ants funding or the Kansas statehouse renovations.