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U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, D-Fla., during a press briefing before voting Aug. 23, 2022, in St. Petersburg. (AP) U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, D-Fla., during a press briefing before voting Aug. 23, 2022, in St. Petersburg. (AP)

U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, D-Fla., during a press briefing before voting Aug. 23, 2022, in St. Petersburg. (AP)

Maria Ramirez Uribe
By Maria Ramirez Uribe August 29, 2022
Yacob Reyes
By Yacob Reyes August 29, 2022

If Your Time is short

  • President Joe Biden does not want to defund the police. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist said he does not support it, either.

  • Funding from Congress to the IRS over the next decade will allow the agency to possibly hire as many as 87,000 employees - but they won’t all be tax auditors. The Treasury Department said added resources would not increase audits for households making below $400,000.

After U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist clinched the Democratic gubernatorial nomination for Florida governor, the Republican Party of Florida aired an ad bashing his support of President Joe Biden.

The 30-second ad, which aired in English and Spanish, tied Crist to Biden on crime and new money for the IRS.

"Charlie Crist thinks Joe Biden is the best president of his lifetime," the Aug. 24 campaign ad said. It went on to claim Crist "supports Biden’s agenda to defund the police," and that he "teamed up with Biden to hire 87,000 new IRS agents to audit the middle class." 

The ad makes false and misleading claims.

Neither Biden nor Crist support calls to "defund" the police. There is also no evidence that the IRS will hire 87,000 new tax agents in order to audit the middle class. 

Biden and Crist don't want to 'defund the police'

Calls for defunding the police followed the 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The phrase refers to the reallocation of funding from law enforcement agencies toward social services.  

The Republicans’ ad cited remarks Biden made about police reform negotiations on Sept. 22, 2021. 

Biden spoke of H.R. 1280, or the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which faced opposition from Republicans and ultimately died in the U.S. Senate. Crist voted for the measure in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Critics of the bill said it would effectively "defund the police" by forcing law enforcement agencies to finance training on racial profiling. It also required police to record data related to law enforcement practices, including traffic stops and the use of deadly force. 

The bill itself does not call for "defunding" law enforcement. Still, the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost intergovernmental agencies "several hundred million dollars annually" to implement the training and reporting requirements.

The bill would have offered grants to assist state, local and tribal police departments in funding such changes. It did not aim to "defund the police."

In a March 2022 interview, Crist said he did not support the notion. 

"I don’t support defunding the police," Crist said. "I support offering all the necessary funding and resources needed to ensure police officers undergo the proper training and screenings that will weed out bad actors."

The Florida GOP ad included a brief clip of Crist saying, "It's reallocation." The footage comes from a virtual meeting between Crist and community organizers in St. Petersburg, Florida, on May 3, 2022.

The party’s accompanying website included a link to Crist's full response to a question about a proposal to "reimagine" St. Petersburg’s approach to policing.

Police chief Anthony Holloway announced a plan July 9, 2020, to create a unit of social workers to respond to nonviolent calls made to the police department. 

St. Petersburg received a $3.1 million grant from the Justice Department in 2020 to hire more police officers. The city more than matched the grant with another $3.8 million. Holloway said he initially offered to hold off on hiring and use the matching funds to launch the program for non-violent calls.

Crist was asked whether he supported Holloway's plan to redirect the matching funds to the program for non-violent calls.

"I support exactly what the chief is doing," Crist said. "And it isn’t defunding, you're correct about that. It's reallocation and making a balance to the approach."

The Republican Party’s website frames Holloway's plan as an example of "defunding police." 

Holloway's plan did not aim to redirect funding outside St. Petersburg's police department. The program for nonviolent calls is managed, dispatched and funded by the department. 

The city ultimately decided to use the federal grant money to both hire more officers and provide funding for the program.

When we asked Crist's campaign about the ad, a staffer pointed to Crist’s comments against "defunding the police," and a $314,000 grant that Crist helped secure for a police department in Largo, Florida, to purchase body cameras.

We rated the claim that Crist shares Biden’s "defund the police" agenda False.

The IRS isn’t hiring 87,000 agents to come after the middle class 

The ad’s other claim taps into Republican criticism for a provision in a new law dealing with climate change, health care and corporate taxes.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which Crist voted to approve, will provide $80 billion in funding to the Internal Revenue Service. But what’s missing from the Republicans’ ad, and other comments like it, is that we still don’t know how exactly the IRS will use this money, or a timetable for bringing on new workers. 

Here’s the origin of the 87,000-agent figure: In May 2021, the Treasury Department told Congress that with an extra $80 billion in funding over the next decade, it could incrementally add 86,852 new full-time equivalent positions. 

This comes as an estimated 50,000 employees are expected to retire or leave the IRS over the next six years, according to Natasha Sarin, the Treasury Department’s counselor for tax policy and implementation.

The report does not necessarily show how the IRS plans to use new money today; the Treasury Department says it will be several months before it decides how to spend it. Even so, there’s an important distinction between the report and the ad. 

The Treasury Department’s plan includes hiring for all kinds of positions, not just auditors

The money would go toward many things, the report said, including "hiring new specialized enforcement staff, modernizing antiquated information technology, and investing in meaningful taxpayer service."

The Republican ad also claims the funding from Congress will be used for the IRS to audit the middle class. Statements from the IRS and the Treasury say the opposite. 

"These resources are absolutely not about increasing audit scrutiny on small businesses or middle-income Americans," said IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in an Aug. 4 letter to Congress about the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the law will help the IRS enforce "the tax laws against those high-earners, large corporations, and complex partnerships who today do not pay what they owe." 

This would be a shift for the IRS. The agency has historically targeted audits on the lowest earners, largely households who file for the Earned Income Tax Credit. 

Although a final plan for how the IRS will use the funding from Congress has not been created, the 2021 Treasury report and statements from the IRS show the money is intended to gradually increase the agency’s hiring for all positions and that audits will not be directed at the middle class.

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Our Sources

Email interview with Sam Ramirez, Crist's press secretary, Aug. 26, 2022

Email interview with Delanie Bomar, DeSantis campaign spokesperson, Aug. 26, 2022

Email interview with Anthony Holloway, St. Petersburg's chief of police, Aug. 25, 2022

Orlando Sentinel, Charlie Crist regrets some past decisions, July 14, 2022

Florida GOP, 87,000, Aug. 24, 2022

White House, Statement on Police Reform Negotiations, Sept. 22, 2021, H.R. 1280, assessed Aug. 25, 2022

U.S. House of Representatives, Roll Call 60, March 3, 2021

Kevin McCarthy, tweet, March 3, 2021

Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 1280, assessed Aug. 25, 2022

Our Tallahassee, Charlie Crist talks Criminal Justice Reform, March 29, 2022

U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, Crist calls for Supporting and Reforming Police, March 3, 2021

Florida Politics, Charlie Crist signals moderate position on police reform, June 9, 2021

Florida GOP, New RPOF Ad Spotlights Charlie Crist’s 100% Lockstep Voting Record with Joe Biden’s Destructive Policy Agenda, Aug. 24, 2022

Florida GOP, Charlie Crist’s Radical Pro-Crime Agenda, assessed Aug. 25, 2022

White House, Statement By President Joe Biden On Police Reform Negotiations, Sep. 22, 2021

U.S. Department of the Treasury, The American Families Plan Tax Compliance Agenda, May 2021

PolitiFact, Kevin McCarthy’s mostly false claim about an army of 87,000 IRS agents, Aug. 11, 2022

PolitiFact, Rick Scott overstates potential hiring surge at the IRS, Aug. 17, 2022

PolitiFact, Johnson’s claim on IRS audits of mostly low wage earners is in the ballpark, Aug. 25, 2022

Department of the Treasury, Letter, Aug. 10, 2022

Department of the Treasury, Letter, Aug. 4, 2022

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

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