Claims that we've heard again...and again

Some PolitiFact statements are heard more than once. (AP photo)
Some PolitiFact statements are heard more than once. (AP photo)

This is National Recycling Week.

We’ll leave it up to schools and civic groups to tout the importance of keeping glass, computers and, yes, newspapers out of landfills. Instead, we’re going to look at recycling as it applies to political statements.

As in ones that we’ve heard and reviewed. And then heard again.

And yet again.

Just last month, Gov. Scott Walker urged the Republican-controlled Legislature to reform the Government Accountability Board. He tweeted that the agency once "wanted to consider Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler as valid signatures on recall petitions."

The first time we encountered that claim was in a video aired in 2011 by the conservative MacIver Institute that said "Wisconsin election officials (were) to accept Mickey Mouse, Hitler signatures on recall petitions." We rated it Mostly False.

The process would not have immediately struck such signatures, but would have flagged them for review. And there were numerous layers of scrutiny before Mickey or Adolf signatures would have been determined valid. Walker embellished that claim by saying the board "wanted" to consider the silly names valid. We rated his statement False.

Another claim that’s been around the block a few times first came up as Walker and Republicans launched what became Act 10, the 2011 law that curtailed collective bargaining for most public employees.

At it’s core, the claim is simple: Wisconsin is "broke."

Walker was one of the first to make this declaration, starting in February 2011 as he unrolled his budget repair bill. He told a national television audience Feb. 11, 2011: "We’re broke. We don’t have any more money."

But state employees and bills were being paid, the government was functioning. And under federal law, the state could not declare bankruptcy. The Republicans were unwilling to raise taxes, so they turned to other means to generate budget savings -- such as requiring workers to pay more toward their health insurance and pension. We rated the statement False.

Seven months later, Walker’s campaign sent out a fundraising appeal that declared: "Wisconsin is broke! This is our moment of reckoning." This, of course, came months after the passage of Act 10 and the rest of the state budget that "repaired" the state’s finances. Pants on Fire.

In June 2015, Assembly Minority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted toward Democrats -- "WI was literally broke when we got here. Been cleaning up your mess ever since." False.

In an odd bit of bipartisan recycling, the liberal group Occupy Democrats then put its own spin on the claim a month later, saying the state was "dead broke" due to actions by Walker and the GOP-led Legislature. Pants on Fire.

Will the claim come back? History says yes.

In a similar vein are statements about employment in Wisconsin -- which was a key issue in the 2014 campaign thanks to Walker’s 2010 pledge to add 250,000 jobs in his first term. (We rated that Promise Broken.)

In January 2014, we rated False a claim by state Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison), who claimed that "every year since Gov. Walker and the Republicans have been in control of the Legislature we’ve created fewer jobs."

In September 2014, Walker’s challenger for re-election, Democrat Mary Burke repeated the jobs claim on Wisconsin Public Radio, saying "The longer he’s in office, the worse it’s getting." And in an Oct. 6, 2014 interview on Postcrescent.com she said the same thing.

The data showed employers added jobs at an uneven pace during Walker’s first three years -- an up and down performance rather than a steady decline. (And the job count was way up in his fourth year.)

We also heard the term "dead last" applying to the state’s job growth compared with the rest of the country. And then heard it again and, well, you know the drill.

Burke repeatedly made dead-last claims with some variation. A July 2014 claim was rated True because Burke cited the most accurate job data issued by the federal government. But when she turned to the claim two months later, it swung to False because she used an unconventional shift in the time frame to make her point.

In October 2014, Walker put his own spin on the jobs data, declaring that the state ranked third in Midwest job growth. But the data was outdated before the ad aired -- and Walker’s campaign knew it.

Yes, that was rated False, too.