Friday, October 24th, 2014

PolitiFact had a ringside seat for Dave Brat's upset of Eric Cantor

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, lost a primary election to David Brat, a relatively unknown economics professor on June 10, 2014.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, lost a primary election to David Brat, a relatively unknown economics professor on June 10, 2014.

Republican Dave Brat galvanized conservative support in the days leading up to Tuesday night’s stunning primary upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by labeling the incumbent as weak on fiscal discipline, immigration and Obamacare.

Brat, a relatively unknown economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., garnered 56 percent of the vote despite being vastly outspent by Cantor by more than a 10-to-1 ratio on advertising and direct mail. So thorough was the victory that Brat won 53 percent of vote in Henrico County -- Cantor’s home and an area that has had a Republican represent it either in state legislature or Congress since 1992.

Brat will face Democrat Jack Trammell, a sociology professor who also teaches at Randolph-Macon, this fall.

PolitiFact Virginia looked at number of claims made during the primary. Here’s what we found:

Cantor: Brat "worked on Democrat Gov. Tim Kaine’s Council of Economic Advisors while Kaine tried to raise our taxes by over $1 billion."

A hallmark attack from Cantor is that Brat is a liberal professor. While we can’t evaluate that, we do know that Brat was a member of the Joint Advisory Board of Economists, which helps the state refine its predictions for the state’s economy as part of the annual budget process. Board members are not compensated and the panel does not weigh in on revenue or policy.

Kaine unsuccessfully proposed about $4 billion in tax increases during his administration. The ad creates the impression that Brat was involved in the policy proposals, but there is no evidence to support that. The claim needs clarification, so we rated it Mostly True.

Brat: Eric Cantor "voted to fully fund Obamacare in October."

Brat, in a TV ad, was  referring to a temporary appropriations bill that Cantor supported and Congress passed last fall to end a 16-day government shutdown. The measure guaranteed continued funding for discretionary programs that rely on annual congressional appropriations, including defense and education.

But Obamacare was only marginally affected by the shutdown and the bill Cantor backed. That’s because only about 10 percent of its costs are subject to appropriations by Congress. The bill Cantor supported to end the shutdown, among many other things, topped off the ACA’s funding tank. What Brat omitted is that 90 percent of Obamacare remained funded throughout the shutdown and was unaffected by the bill Cantor backed. Cantor opposed the original bill that established Obamacare in 2010.

We rated Brat’s claim Mostly False.

Cantor: "A liberal, pro-amnesty group" endorsed Brat.

Cantor wrote in an email that Casa de Virginia, a group supporting immigration reform, backed Brat during a May 28 rally in Richmond. Seeking to shore up his conservative support, Cantor cited the action as proof that that he is "standing up to Obama on illegal immigration."

But no speaker at the rally issued an endorsement of Dave Brat, Cantor’s opponent. To the contrary, the keynoter stressed that the group was not taking sides in the primary.  A flier telling people to vote for "Anybody But Cantor" was passed out by a man attending the rally, but not in packets distributed by the organizers.  We rated Cantor’s claim False.

Laura Ingraham, Brat supporter: Cantor and Rep. Luis Gutierrez were "touring the country last year … joined at the hip, working together in a bipartisan fashion indeed for the goal of immigration reform."

Ingraham, a conservative radio talk show host, campaigned for Brat and said that Cantor was working with Democrats to ease immigration laws. She backed her "tour" charge by noting Cantor and Gutierrez, D-Cal., attended a "Becoming America Pilgrimage" held a year ago in New York City to recognize the historic contribution of immigrants to the nation. They were among 100 political, academic and faith leaders from Washington who attended the event.

Aides for the two congressmen this is the only immigration event both happened to attend and that Cantor and Gutierrez have never met to discuss the issue. Ingraham couldn’t point to another immigration event the two had attended. One gig does not make a national tour and we rated Ingraham’s statement Pants on Fire.

Cantor: Senate immigration legislation is the "Obama-Reid plan to give illegal immigrants amnesty."

Cantor was referring to legislation the Senate passed last year that would add billions for border security and open a pathway to citizenship for 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. This is amnesty, of a sort, because the illegal entry would eventually be forgiven after significant hurdles. The hurdles include at least $2,000 in fines plus back taxes and 5 to 10 years of waiting for a green card.

While President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid back the bill, the legislation was largely the idea of four Democrat and four Republican senators. Cantor’s description of the bill as a Democratic plan is misleading and PolitiFact National rated the statement Mostly False.