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By Robert Farley April 15, 2008

The bill has no such spending requirement

A letter from the conservative group Focus on the Family Action makes a multifaceted attack on Sen. Barack Obama in an attempt to portray him as someone who would be "the most left-wing president in our nation's history."

The article, written for the organization's Web site and widely circulated via chain e-mail, tries to paint Obama as bad for families, accusing him of everything from trying to further "the homosexual agenda" to being soft on the war against terrorists.

Focus on the Family Action is the lobbying arm of Focus on the Family, an organization founded by evangelical Christian Dr. James Dobson.

One of the claims in the article, written by Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus on the Family Action, warns that Obama sponsored legislation that commits the United States to drastically increasing foreign aid.

"Among his pet projects is a bill he sponsored called the Global Poverty Act, which would commit the U.S. to spending 0.7 percent of gross national product on foreign aid," the article on the group's Web site says. "Over 13 years, that will amount to a whopping $845-billion increase over current foreign-aid spending! Get your checkbooks ready!"

The Global Poverty Act, introduced by Obama on Dec. 7, 2007 — along with Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel and Democrat Maria Cantwell — would "require the president to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day."

Focus on the Family takes that statement to mean the bill would adopt all of the United Nations' Millenium Project recommendations, one of which is that high-income countries like the United States should increase their foreign aid to 0.7 percent of gross national income by 2015. (According to the Millenium Project Web page, in 2004, total aid from the industrialized countries totaled $78.6-billion — or about 0.25% of their collective GNP. The United States, the report states, donated 0.16 percent of its gross national income.)

Minnery said his group's interpretation of the legislation originated with an article by Cliff Kincaid for Accuracy in Media on Feb. 12, 2008. That story reached a much wider audience when Rush Limbaugh parroted Kincaid's claim on his nationally syndicated radio show.

But according to staff members for several of the legislators pushing the bill, Kincaid misread the legislation.

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The act adopts only the first recommendation from the U.N. Millenium Project, the one that requires countries to develop strategies to halve by 2015 the number of people who live in extreme poverty, on less than $1 per day.

So the claim that the Global Poverty Act would commit the United States to spending 0.7 percent of its gross national product on foreign aid?

"That's just not factual," said Jordan Stark, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel. Again, a Republican.

"The bill simply requires the president to develop and implement a U.S.-determined strategy to reduce global poverty and does not mandate any new spending," Stark said.

But don't just take his word for it. The Congressional Budget Office on March 28, 2008, estimated the cost of implementing the bill would be less than $1-million per year.

According to the CBO report, the bill would require the president to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce global poverty, including "more effective forms of development assistance, coordination of efforts with other countries and international organizations, and continuation of existing initiatives to reduce poverty and disease in developing countries." It also would require the State Department to prepare several reports. But, "enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or receipts."

Now, maybe the president decides that in order to address extreme global poverty the United States ought to kick in more. But the president would not be tied to any dollar figure in this bill.

The statement — which began with Kincaid and was repeated by Focus on the Family Action — is False.

Our Sources

Focus on the Family Action, "March 2008 Action Update," by Tom Minnery, March 2008

WorldNetDaily, "Obama bill: $845 billion more for global poverty," Feb. 14, 2008

Media Matters, "Quoting Kincaid, Limbaugh falsely asserted Obama bill 'would commit the United States to spending 0.7 percent of GDP on foreign aid,' " Feb 21, 2008

110th Congress, 1st Session, The Global Poverty Act bill, introduced by Obama on Dec. 7, 2008

Millenium Project, "10 Key Recommendations," commissioned by the U.N. secretary-general

Accuracy in Media, "Obama's Global Tax Proposal Up for Senate Vote," column by Cliff Kincaid, Feb. 12, 2008

Press release, "Obama, Hagel, Cantwell Introduce Bill to Fight Global Poverty," from Obama's official Senate Web site, Dec. 11, 2007

United Nations, United Nations Millenium Declaration, Sept. 18, 2000

Millenium Project, Q&A;: What is the 0.7 commitment, and where did it come from?, breakdown by country of assistance as a percentage of gross national product

Center for International Development, "Helping the world's poorest," by Jeffrey Sachs at Harvard University, Aug. 14, 1999

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The bill has no such spending requirement

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