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By D.L. Davis September 2, 2022
By Laura Schulte September 2, 2022
By Kelly Smits September 2, 2022

PolitiFact Wisconsin’s fact checks in August 2022 offered readers a smorgasbord of topics, from a Trump endorsement to defunding police and even a bit of bull. 

Welcome to a tweaked version of our High Five feature. 

Each month we’ll include some of the most-clicked items, of course, but also some others that are especially relevant or timely – such as the ones here involving the race for governor. 

Here are our picks for last month:

1. GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels: On endorsing former President Donald Trump in 2024. 

When asked by a voter at an Aug. 1, 2022, WISN-TV, Channel 12, town hall forum, Michels joined fellow candidates in declining to say whether they would back Trump for president following his actions during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Although Michels did not say outright he would not support Trump, he stayed firmly on the fence by saying he had made no commitment to any candidates in 2024.

One day later, in a speech in Kaukauna, Michels climbed down from the fence. 

Since he had been backed by Trump, Michels told the crowd, he would support Trump.

"I wish he was president today and had four more years," Michels said, adding, "If he runs in 2024, if he does, I will support him and I will endorse him," reported. "We need somebody like that in Washington, D.C." 

We rated Michels’ stance a Half Flip.

2. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate: "We have more oil and gas permits than ever before right now." 

In response to a request for backup, the campaign shared a Yahoo News article from March reporting that oil and gas permitting in the United States has increased under President Joe Biden’s administration.

The article relies upon a data dashboard of onshore oil and gas leasing and drilling under the Biden administration from the Center for Western Priorities, a nonpartisan conservation and advocacy organization focusing on the American West.

The Bureau of Land Management confirmed that the number of approved but unused onshore drilling permits reached 9,623 at the end of fiscal year 2021, the highest it’s been in the past decade.

The problem is there is no available earlier data, which would really be necessary to make such a sweeping claim. That puts an asterisk on what Barnes said. The statement is accurate but needs additional information. 

We rated it Mostly True.

3. Republican Governors Association: "Governor Tony Evers gave counties the green light to defund Wisconsin's police departments." 

The defund the police angle is an echo of attacks on Democrats that began after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer sparked protests across the nation. Many protests called for police budgets to be dramatically cut or, in some cases, the departments eliminated and replaced.

A spokesperson for the RGA  pointed to an Evers veto of a Republican bill that would penalize counties and municipalities that reduce police budgets. But that veto simply kept the status quo – it was not a proactive step by Evers to force or encourage cities and counties to cut law enforcement.

What’s more, Evers has flatly stated he does not support defunding the police, and directed $100 million in pandemic aid to law enforcement.

So, the statement "contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression." 

We rated the claim Mostly False.

4. Gov. Tony Evers: "We are number one in the country as far as our spending (COVID-19 relief) money on businesses as it relates to the percentage of federal funds that we receive." 

When asked to back up Evers’ claim, his staff cited figures from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank that analyzes the impact of federal and state government budget policies. 

Those figures focused on the American Rescue Plan Act (known as ARPA), a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, to help the U.S. recover from the economic fallout and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a list of the top five states, by percentage of money used as assistance to businesses – and, in parentheses, the total allocated to businesses, Wisconsin came in first at 31.56% ($641 million). 

A think tank spokesman noted that the percentages are based only on money allocated as of March 2022, "so there’s no guarantee that that ranking will hold once the remaining dollars go out."

Another caveat: The group’s analysis covers only ARPA money, not the $2 billion the state got through the earlier Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (known as CARES), approved under Trump.

But the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has not done a comparable state-by state analysis of the CARES Act — and Evers’ own staff said it is unaware of any analysis that takes a comprehensive look at the combined COVID-related grant money.

Based on the available information, the claim appears to be on target, with a few caveats. 

We rated it Half True.

5. League of Conservation Voters: Says U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., "called climate change ‘bull----’ during a record heatwave" and "raked in over $700k in fossil fuel cash."

While speaking to the Republican Women of Greater Wisconsin on June 5, 2021, Johnson’s speech did, in fact, turn to climate change. 

"I don’t know about you guys, but I think climate change — as Lord Monckton said — bull - - - -," Johnson said, based on a video of the luncheon. He was referring to Lord Christopher Monckton, a noted British climate change skeptic, and mouthed the expletive before adding aloud: "By the way, it is." 

When asked later about his comments by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson tried to soften the remark a bit, saying that he is not a climate change denier, nor is he a climate change alarmist. 

"Climate is not static," he said. "It has always changed and always will change." 

Meanwhile, according to OpenSecrets, Johnson has taken $753,247 from the oil and gas industry since 2009. That period covers Johnson’s entire tenure in office, since he first won election in 2010.

We rated this claim True



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PolitiFact Wisconsin 'High Five' for August 2022