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Politicians had a rough time with the truth
By Willoughby Mariano August 29, 2010

The truth and politicos were strangers last week.

The Truth-O-Meter ruled Half True and worse on statements about "dirty" campaign contributions, stimulus spending, the community center and mosque near ground zero, and sexual deviance.

And our Flip-O-Meter, which detects whether politicians have shifted their opinions, found that a gubernatorial candidate inched away from his ideal of running a "civil and polite" campaign.

Here's how the politicos fared:

National Republican Congressional Committee: U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., refuses to return $37,000 in "dirty" campaign contributions from U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.

Republicans made this accusation recently in a recorded message that went out Aug. 10 to voters across U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall's district. It said U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, who is in a heap of ethics trouble, made $37,000 in campaign contributions to Marshall.

The message called for Marshall to give the money back.

The Republicans' number was off by $1,000. In all, Marshall received $38,000 from "National Leadership PAC," a spokesman for the congressman confirmed. A leadership PAC is a fundraising organization politicians use to collect cash to back other candidates, and National Leadership is Rangel's.

But that money arrived before Rangel's ethics problems. All of the contributions were made by 2007, a year before the ethics allegations surfaced. Marshall has since refused to accept contributions from Rangel or the PAC, the spokesman said.

We ruled the Republicans' statement Half True because it takes some things out of context and leaves out important details.

Brian Robinson, spokesman for GOP gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal: "Roy Barnes is part of the team that has run up trillions of dollars in debt that Americans will spend years paying off, and they've done it without creating one job."

Robinson fired off this accusation against Barnes after the Democrats' state convention. That's when Barnes, a former and would-be governor, slammed Deal for being part of the team "that brought Georgia to where we are now."

Robinson told AJC's PolitiFact Georgia he based his counterattack on the results of the stimulus package passed by the Democrat-led Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in February 2009.

We had problems with Robinson's explanation. While Barnes did support Obama financially, he has not been a member of Congress and hasn't been a close adviser to the president. Robinson is correct to say debt has risen since the stimulus, but several independent groups say the stimulus has saved or created some jobs.

We rated Robinson's statement as Barely True.

Former governor and current Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes, on running a "civil and polite" campaign.

At the end of a Republican runoff rife with name-calling and false accusations, Barnes gave a TV interview Aug. 11 saying it's possible to do what few politicians dare: run a "civil and polite" campaign.

Barnes said it's his obligation to point out the differences between him and the opposition, but "I think that you can show differences without being mean."

We took out our trusty Flip-O-Meter, which detects shifts in politicians' positions, and used it on three TV ads Barnes released since the day of the runoff.

"Negative" can be in the eye of the beholder. Barnes' Republican opponent Nathan Deal thought every ad Barnes ran mentioning him was negative, but Barnes' camp thought they were legitimate comparisons on important issues.

We reviewed three ads released starting the day of the Republican runoff. All of the ads covered important issues. One didn't mention Deal at all. The second called Deal out by name. The newest one, "Hiding," insinuated Deal was up to no good without stating facts to back it up.

As time went on, Barnes' commercials strayed from "civil and polite." We ruled this one a Half Flip.

Journalist and political commentator Al Hunt on the mosque planned near ground zero: "This is not a mosque. It's a cultural center that has a prayer area."

By now, most of those following the so-called "ground zero mosque" issue know it is not on ground zero. It's two blocks away. But on ABC's "This Week" on Aug. 22, Bloomberg's Hunt said it's not even a mosque.

The problem with Hunt's statement is that the developing organization repeatedly refers to the religious component of the site as a "mosque." The website for the project,, describes an operation with basketball courts, an auditorium, exhibitions, a 500-seat auditorium, art studios, plus a restaurant and culinary school.

Plus, there's "a mosque, intended to be run separately from Park51but open to and accessible to all members, visitors and our New York community," the website says. Organizers frequently describe the project on the website and news accounts as a "mosque."

Yes, the project is more than a mosque. It's also a community center. But we ruled it's False for Hunt to say that it's not one.

Candidate for U.S. House Russell Edwards: Incumbent "Rep. Paul Broun Jr. sides with sexual deviants to support sale of 'crush videos.' "

Does a Georgia congressman really approve of the sale of sexually deviant videos?

Edwards, a Democrat, leveled the attack July 22 against his opponent Broun, a Republican from Athens. Edwards' claim is based on Broun's vote against a recent resolution to prohibit the sale of "crush videos." The fetish videos typically show women wearing high heels stomping on small, furry animals.

The ban was signed into federal law in 1999 The U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in April, saying it violated free speech rights.

Broun said he voted against the bill because he believes the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government limited criminal justice power and each state has laws against animal cruelty. This opinion squares with his long reputation for interpreting the Constitution strictly.

Voting against the resolution on constitutional grounds is not the same as supporting the sale of deviant material. We rated Edwards' statement False.

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Politicians had a rough time with the truth