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Balloons fall during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 29, 2016. (AP) Balloons fall during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 29, 2016. (AP)

Balloons fall during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 29, 2016. (AP)

Haley BeMiller
By Haley BeMiller August 14, 2020

Democrats will power up their computers next week to gather for a virtual Democratic National Convention anchored in the key swing state of Wisconsin.  

The convention, which runs from Aug. 17 to 20, marks a turning point in the 2020 presidential race as the party prepares to nominate former Vice President Joe Biden to face President Donald Trump in November. 

Once poised to be a political spectacle and revenue generator for Milwaukee, the event will now be mostly virtual due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Members of the state delegation will speak at the Wisconsin Center, while delegates and other speakers stay home. 

Biden will accept the nomination from his home state of Delaware. 

Still, the event promises to be filled with speeches from prominent Democrats that will touch on issues such as the pandemic, racial justice and the economy. 

PolitiFact has been busy looking at claims from Biden and other Democrats this election cycle. Here is a roundup of some of the latest, from PolitiFact Wisconsin and the national staff:

Claim: "If the vaccine came out tomorrow, how in the heck would we get it to people? There is no game plan."

Speaking to associations that represent Black and Hispanic journalists, Biden said the federal government has no plan for distributing a coronavirus vaccine when it’s available to the public. 

Health officials estimate that a vaccine will be available by early 2021. Two committees are looking at the issue of distribution, and states must submit their own distribution plans by the end of September. Four states plus Philadelphia are also participating in a pilot program.

So, Biden is correct that there’s no current plan for vaccine distribution. But various efforts are in the works, and there’s still time before the vaccine is ready.

Rating: Mostly True.

Claim: "No U.S. presidents elected before Donald Trump were racist."

Biden dove into the issue of racism during a July town hall, but this claim was much more sweeping than suggesting Trump is racist. 

The United States has a long history of people in power who can be considered racist. Indeed, past presidents have owned slaves, forcibly relocated Native Americans, segregated federal buildings and promoted white superiority. 

Rating: False.

Claim: "Trump lost a trade war that he started."

An ad produced by the Democratic National Committee, with Biden’s approval, went after Trump’s trade policy with China. Trade relations between the United States and China had been tense for years, but experts agree that Trump escalated the situation by imposing tariffs. 

Experts also pointed to several metrics that indicate the United States is losing — including retaliatory tariffs that targeted U.S. agriculture. Still, they say it’s too soon to declare that Trump "lost" the trade war, even if the situation isn’t looking good so far. 

Rating: Mostly True.

Claim: "40% of the initial small business funds didn’t go to small businesses at all."

During a virtual campaign stop with La Crosse voters, Biden took aim at the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which distributed $500 billion in forgivable loans to businesses squeezed by the pandemic.

The Small Business Administration, which administers the program, hadn’t released data on the size of businesses receiving loans. The only hint available was the size of the loan a business received, and around 40% of the funding went to loans of more than $1 million.

But Biden’s definition of a small business didn’t line up with the SBA’s, which applies to those under 500 employees. Indeed, that’s the definition Biden himself used in a different statement moments before this one. 

Rating: Mostly False.

Claim: The Obama administration was doing pattern-or-practice investigations of discrimination by police departments and "Donald Trump came in with Jeff Sessions and undid those."

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Biden’s newly announced running mate, told CNN in the wake of George Floyd's death that the United States should continue pattern-or-practice investigations of police departments conducted under former President Barack Obama. These probes examine broad behavior within a department to determine whether misconduct exists.

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division opened 25 investigations under Obama. The department did not respond to PolitiFact’s inquiry about how many the Trump administration has opened. 

A review of news releases and media reports indicated that one investigation may have been opened into the narcotics unit of the Springfield, Massachusetts, police department. But Trump’s administration has generally been against them. 

Rating: Mostly True

Claim: Says she "sued Exxon Mobil" as California attorney general. 

Harris made this claim during a CNN climate town hall last year, when she was still a candidate in the presidential primary. 

PolitiFact determined that Harris’ office investigated the oil giant in 2016 over allegations it lied to the public and shareholders about climate change. And she did sue other companies, including BP and Chevron. But there’s no evidence she ever brought a lawsuit against Exxon. 

Rating: False.

Claim: "The Trump Administration is trying to take food assistance away from Wisconsin families when people are out of work and struggling."

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, is scheduled to speak to the convention. Back in May, Baldwin argued the Trump administration was trying to take away food assistance in the middle of the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, issued a rule last year that would make it harder for states to waive work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents. A federal judge in March temporarily blocked the rule change, but the USDA appealed the decision.

That said, there have been efforts to keep food assistance going during the health crisis. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act waived the work requirement, and the USDA noted monthly SNAP benefits had increased while touting other initiatives it administered.

Rating: Half True.

Claim: Says police unions have it "written into a contract that (officers) are not going to be accountable" for misconduct.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, who is also scheduled to speak to the convention, tackled the role of police unions amid the ongoing debate over police reform and racial justice. 

Moore’s statement left the impression that police officers under union contracts are entirely shielded from internal, civil and criminal liability. That’s an exaggeration.

Unions do offer protections from some complaints and allow officers to appeal discipline, which limits internal accountability to a degree. But officers can still be prosecuted and sued, and protections like qualified immunity aren’t tied to union contracts. 

Rating: Mostly False.


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