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Take 200 Texas fact checks, call us after Election Day

By W. Gardner Selby October 30, 2014

We learned a lot in some 200 fact checks completed since we found True Greg Abbott’s May 2013 claim that he’d sued the Barack Obama administration 25 times, (The count was higher.)

In honor of Election Day 2014, how about a big gulp?

The summaries below draw from our fact checks about government spending, voter fraud, abortion, Afghanistan, making a living, Abbott v. Davis, border security, education, Austin-specific topics -- and (hottest for last) Pants on Fire rulings.

Texas government spending

It’s Mostly True, as Gov. Rick Perry said, that the 2014-15 state budget drove up spending less than the combined growth in inflation and population while state Sen. Dan Patrick, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, mostly got it wrong when he said the same budget cut funding for border security and fighting criminal gangs.

Voter fraud

Does voter fraud cross your mind? We’re hoping not.

We rated False a claim by U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, that studies have shown voter fraud is non-existent in Texas. We also rated Mostly False a declaration by Attorney General Abbott that there had been no problems whatsoever with the state’s voter ID law.

The League of Women Voters of Texas won a True saying photo identification cards aren’t needed for Texans voting by mail.

Abortion in Texas

In the 2013 special legislative session that brought state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, to national attention, she got it mostly right that in 2008, 92 percent of the state’s counties lacked an abortion provider. At the time, we found Half True her statement that each year, 25,000 U.S. women become pregnant due to rape or incest.

That summer, we found Half True Perry’s claim that Davis was the daughter of a single mother and a teenage mother herself.

We separately rated Pants on Fire the governor’s reference to abortion as the nation’s most common surgical procedure. Perry also said a growing number of extremely premature babies were growing into healthy children; Mostly True. Separately, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, overstated when he said Texas has over 80,000 abortions a year.


We don’t often venture into foreign affairs. But we adjudged Half True a February 2014 claim by David Alameel, on his way to winning the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, that more than 40,000 troops "are still stationed in Afghanistan with no clear objective. Even in the best case, by the end of the year at least 10,000 American soldiers will still be on the ground."

Making a living in Texas

Davis, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, muffed saying "Texas women make an average of $8,355 less per year than men doing the very same job." But she drew a Mostly True for declaring women make 82 cents for every dollar a man earns in Texas.

Separately, a Mostly True went to Perry’s claim that 95 percent of Texas wages exceed the minimum wage. Around the same time, Democratic commentator Stephanie Cutter got it right that 1 in 10 U.S. minimum-wage workers toil in Texas.

Abbott v. Davis

Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, incorrectly said Davis was threatening to raise taxes up to $35 billion.

Later, on billboards and in TV ads, Abbott delivered a Mostly False claim that Davis’ legal work was under FBI investigation.

We found Half True Abbott’s statement Davis was fighting to bring Bloomberg-style gun control to the state.

A little later, Davis landed a Half True for her claim Abbott, the state attorney general, defended more than $5 billion in public school funding cuts in fighting hundreds of school districts in court.

Another Half True was forthcoming when Davis said Texas payday lenders profit "from the poor by charging 1,000-plus" percent "interest."

Davis was mostly right that, as a Supreme Court justice, Abbott found that a company whose vacuum cleaners were sold door to door "had no responsibility" in the hiring of a salesman who raped a customer. She also was mostly correct saying weeks "after accepting a quarter-million-dollar campaign contribution" from a hospital board chairman, Abbott went to court against victims of a drug-taking neurosurgeon.

Mostly True, too, was Davis’ claim Abbott has benefitted from "payday lenders who have given him $300,000 and then received a ruling from him that they can operate in a loophole in the law that allows them to charge unlimited rates and fees."

Border security

Among Democrats, then-San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro correctly said Patrick had previously proposed "Arizona-style show-me-your-papers legislation."

A Democratic group accurately said Patrick had "called immigration into Texas an invasion" and "said immigrants coming into Texas bring ‘third-world diseases.’"


Patrick incorrectly told delegates to his party’s state convention "We have a 40 to 50 percent dropout rate in our inner-city schools."  Patrick landed a Mostly False saying the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, "voted to stop schools from removing teachers convicted of a felony."

Democratic state comptroller nominee Mike Collier missed when he said Republican Glenn Hegar, a state senator, promised to eliminate the property tax. Collier correctly said Hegar had expressed pride in legislated cuts to public school funding.

A Mostly False flew to Davis’ statement that Abbott’s education plan mandates standardized testing of 4-year-olds.

In the #ATX

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, drew a Mostly True when he said during "the last election, Democrats won over a million votes more than Republicans, but because of the way districts are designed, the Republicans got 33 more members of the House of Representatives than the Democrats did." Doggett later won a True saying Travis County is surrounded by Republican-red counties.

Meantime, a former Republican activist was mostly correct saying nearly 90 percent of Travis County’s 2014 races would settled by the time of the March 2014 Democratic primary.

A candidate for Travis County judge got it mostly right when he said the county has the highest tax rate of any urban county in the state.

Departing Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell won a True for his statement that Austin is "a city that has basically doubled in size every 25 years or so since it was founded."

State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, was right when he called Austin the "largest city in America without a congressional district anchored in it."

Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez, bidding for mayor, correctly said the council through history had included four or five Hispanic members.

Mayoral aspirant Steve Adler was mostly right that "57% of the jobs created" in Austin "from 2009 to 2013 do not pay families a living wage."

Sheryl Cole, a fellow council member running for mayor, incorrectly said the city had put in place new homestead exemptions in 2014.

Separately, council candidate Jay Wiley was mostly right that Austin has "over 1,000 city employees that make six-figure salaries."

A local activist missed the mark saying Austin’s 78702 is the nation’s second-most-gentrified ZIP code.

Claims in flames

We identified a few incorrect and ridiculous claims. Pants on Fire ratings went to:

What did we miss? Thanks for reading.

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Take 200 Texas fact checks, call us after Election Day