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As election approaches, Truth-o-Meter whirls
By Willoughby Mariano October 24, 2010

With only days to go until Election Day, candidates kept the Truth-O-Meter whirling last week.

Our trusty meter ventured overseas and back again for claims
on Mexican workers, Chinese wind turbines and Washington health care.

Homegrown controversies over political TV ads on the rape shield law and education funding were also up for inspection. 

No one fared well. All our rulings were Half True or worse.

Election Day is Nov. 2.

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Republican candidate for governor Nathan Deal: "Roy Barnes proclaimed Mexican workers good for Georgia."

Some voters are worried illegal immigration is hurting Georgia's job market, and Deal wants them to think he's on their side and Democratic opponent Barnes isn't.

Barnes sides with Mexican workers, according to the above claim in an Oct. 12 Deal TV ad.

Deal's proof is a Nov. 8, 2001, article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on a meeting between Barnes, then the governor, and then Mexican President Vicente Fox in Mexico City.

"The labor we have received, primarily Mexicans, has fueled our economy," Barnes said. He added that the 1996 Atlanta Olympics couldn't have happened without it. He did not mention illegal immigrants.

The Deal ad does correctly convey the 2001 quotes from Barnes, but it should have clarified Barnes didn't mention illegal immigrants. And Barnes made the statement nine years ago in a different political and economic climate.

So the ad lacks context that might give viewers a different impression. By the definition of our Truth-o-Meter, the statement rates as Half True.

Austin Scott: U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Macon, sent nearly $2 billion overseas to build wind turbines and create jobs, mostly in China

Your stimulus money is being shanghaied, Republicans are saying. Literally, it's going to China.

And credit belongs in part to Marshall, according to a TV commercial released Oct. 5 by Scott that contains the above claim.

Marshall and Scott are in one of the state's toughest races. Similar accusations about China and wind power are haunting Democratic congressmen across the country who voted for the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, otherwise known as the stimulus bill.

While green-energy grants did end up in the hands of foreign companies, the situation is far from what Scott's commercial claimed. China had barely any role in this issue.

The $2 billion figure is old and incorrect. Even critics agree that money is staying in the country in the form of domestic construction and manufacturing jobs, though the amount is unclear and most jobs are short-term.


Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle: "We refused to balance the budget on the backs of our children."

The television ad begins with the smiling faces of children.

The next image is of Cagle, who is running for re-election against Democrat Carol Porter, standing in a classroom.

"Children are our priority," Cagle says in the ad released Oct. 11. "That's why we refused to balance the budget on the backs of our children."

Didn't Georgia cut education funding this fiscal year? Didn't former Georgia Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox say the cuts are so deep that the state is now paying for only 147 of the 180 mandated days in the school year?

Yes. Over two years, state spending has dropped from $21 billion to $18 billion. State leaders blame the Great Recession.

Cagle's campaign argues the cuts could have been worse. The Legislature did restore education funding in some areas, and the school systems have more spending flexibility. However, the state cuts have been some of the largest in recent memory.

That rates as Barely True in our book.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The new health care law crushes small businesses "with billions in penalties."

The chamber is attacking U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, a Colorado House member running for re-election. As a Democrat, she supported this year's federal health care overhaul.

That overhaul will crush small business, according to the above claim in an Oct. 5 TV campaign ad.

We found this claim perplexing because some small businesses can actually qualify for tax credits under the new health care law.

Meanwhile, almost all small businesses -- those with fewer than 50 employees -- are exempt from penalties, whether they offer insurance or not. Some small businesses are larger than 50 employees and could face fines if they don't offer employees insurance.

But a vast majority of U.S. firms are smaller than 50 employees and are exempt from the health insurance requirements. The chamber's ad is sweeping and doesn't account for any of the positive provisions that don't "crush" small business but actually help them.

We rate the chamber's statement False.

Barnes: Deal fought to weaken Georgia's rape shield law.

It's the most incendiary TV ad in the race for governor so far.

An empty station wagon sits in a desolate parking lot. Groceries litter the ground.
"It was my niece. If Nathan Deal had won his fight to weaken the rape shield law, and my niece took the stand, she would have been forced to defend what she wore and that she didn"t deserve to be raped," a woman's voice says.


Yes, but Barnes' ad, released Oct. 15, needs important context.

In 1991, Deal, then second in command in the state Senate, introduced a bill that would overhaul the state's rules of evidence. This included making changes to the rape shield that gave the defense leeway that didn't exist in state law or federal rules.

It failed.

Deal pursued the change until public protest reached a fevered pitch. And while he didn't fight to help rapists or hurt victims, he invested his considerable political capital on behalf of a bill that would have weakened the rape shield act.

Half True.

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As election approaches, Truth-o-Meter whirls