Fact-checking 2020 candidates at the California Democratic Convention

A few of the presidential candidates speaking at the 2019 California Democratic Convention in San Francisco / Photo graphic by Capital Public Radio
A few of the presidential candidates speaking at the 2019 California Democratic Convention in San Francisco / Photo graphic by Capital Public Radio

More than a dozen 2020 Democratic presidential contenders made their way to San Francisco this weekend to speak at the California Democratic Party Convention. One by one, they attacked President Trump while also making claims about their own records.

PolitiFact California was at the convention and fact-checked the candidates. Follow us on Twitter @CAPolitiFact and read CapRadio’s full news coverage here.

Here are some of the claims we examined:

Harris’ claim on Trump’s tariffs

California Sen. Kamala Harris took a swipe at Trump’s tariffs when she claimed:  

"Let’s call it what it is. It’s a trade tax. I like to call it Trump’s trade tax. And his trade tax is taking $1.4 billion out of working people’s pockets every month."

A March 2019 study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, a European based think tank, appears to back this up. It says the $1.4 billion figure was the monthly cost of Trump’s tariffs in 2018, though it doesn’t say the impact was limited to "working people." It doesn’t include the latest proposed tariffs on Mexico.

The CEPR study includes research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Princeton and Columbia universities.

It concluded: "Overall, using standard economic methods, we find that the full incidence of the tariff falls on domestic consumers, with a reduction in U.S. real income of $1.4 billion per month by the end of 2018."

PolitiFact California has not yet heard back from the study’s authors, or from Harris’ campaign, concerning the statement. If we do, we’ll consider placing a Truth-O-Meter rating on her claim.

Hickenlooper’s claims on NRA and health insurance

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickelooper drew long boos from convention delegates when he said Democrats should be practical and that "socialism is not the answer" for the party.

He received a better response with two claims about his record, one on gun control and the other on healthcare.

Hickenlooper claimed he "beat the NRA with tough gun laws." PolitiFact in May rated that True, noting he signed into law a requirement for universal background checks for gun purchases and another limiting magazine sizes.

Leading up to the signings, the NRA established a website aimed at mobilizing opposition to the bills and took out print advertisements in Colorado newspapers attacking Hickenlooper, PolitiFact reported.

Hickenlooper also repeated a Mostly True claim that "we got to almost universal coverage in health care in Colorado."

In March, PolitiFact found that Colorado is much closer to universal health care coverage than before the Affordable Care Act. It noted, however, that "hundreds of thousands of Coloradans remain uninsured and other states have even lower uninsured rates. Nevertheless, the state has an uninsured rate of 6.5%, which is close to universal coverage."

Gov. Inslee on wind power

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee spoke immediately after Hickenlooper. He gained some cheers saying he’s "the governor" in the race that’s taken bold steps on climate change.

Inslee said his state has created a strong wind turbine industry.

In March, PolitiFact rated Mostly True a similar claim by Inslee: "We have developed a wind industry (in Washington state) from zero to $6 billion in 12 years."

PolitiFact found his figure is backed up by the American Wind Energy Association and federal pricing data from the Department of Energy.

"The vast majority of Washington’s wind energy capital was invested over a 12-year period, from 2002 through 2014," PolitiFact added. "It's worth noting that Inslee became governor only in 2013.

Sanders’ claim on corporate taxes and gun deaths

At the convention on Sunday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said corporations need to pay their share of taxes. PolitiFact last year fact-checked Sanders on a related topic, rating True his claim that online retailer Amazon paid no federal income tax in 2017.

Amazon estimated it received a $137 million rebate, according to PolitiFact’s reporting. Experts said there was no indication of foul play. They noted that Congress has passed tax credits and write-offs for stock-based compensation that enabled this to happen.

Sanders also pledged to take on the NRA, claiming that "40,000 people were killed last year with guns."

That statistic is one year out-of-date. Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The New York Times reported that in "there were 39,773 gun deaths in 2017, up by more than 1,000 from the year before. Nearly two-thirds were suicides."

We could not find CDC data for 2018. However, the Trace, a news outlet focused on gun violence, reported that slightly fewer gun deaths took place last year. It attributed that to data collected by the Gun Violence Archive, which compiles nationwide shooting statistics based on news reports and government sources.  

Follow us here and on Twitter @CAPolitiFact. Check Cap Radio’s live blog for our full news coverage of the convention.