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In a previous PolitiFact ruling we awarded a Half True to Rob Cornilles for claiming that his opponent, Suzanne Bonamici, voted a partisan 98 percent of the time with Democrats. He was ignoring evidence that many bills in the Legislature are unanimous and noncontroversial.
This time, we check Bonamici’s claim, repeated at a televised debate this week, that she voted with Republicans 98 percent of the time while serving in the Oregon Legislature.
"Rob keeps using this 98 percent figure that is misleading …" she said about 7-1/2 minutes into the program. "Yes, I voted 98 percent of the time with the majority of Democrats. I also voted 98 percent of the time with Republicans in the Oregon Legislature."
We also knew from our previous PolitiFact that the 98 percent figure sounded funky. That’s because when we checked Bonamici’s voting record against that of state Sen. Jackie Winters, a Salem Republican with social services expertise, we found that they voted the same way 89.6 percent of the time in 2011, for an overall average of 83 percent from 2009-11. (During the 2010 special session, she voted with Winters 87 percent of the time and in 2009, 77 percent of the the time.)
Nearly 90 percent is not 98 percent.
Just to make sure we weren’t overlooking a friendlier Republican, we asked Mark Friesen, The Oregonian’s database expert, to see how often Bonamici voted the same way as Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany. We picked Morse because he’s considered a Republican moderate.
In 2009, Bonamici and Morse voted together on 900 out of 1,123 votes, or just slightly over 80 percent of the time. In 2010’s short session, they voted together on 119 out of 146 votes, or nearly 82 percent of the time. In 2011, they voted together on 822 out of 955 votes, or just over 86 percent of the time.
The average over three sessions? Nearly 83 percent, same as with Winters. So not anywhere near 98 percent.
(We also checked Bonamici against Sen. Dave Nelson, R-Pendleton. In 2009, they voted the same way on 843 out of 1,123 votes, or 75 percent of the time. In 2010, they voted the same way on 95 out of 146 votes, or 65 percent. In 2011, Bonamici and Nelson voted together on 785 out of 955 votes, or just over 82 percent. The three-session average is 77 percent.)
Bonamici’s campaign has long circulated a version of the 98 percent figure: "However, an independent analysis shows that Bonamici voted with the majority of legislators voting on a measure -- both Democrats and Republicans and an indication of the bipartisan nature of the Oregon Legislature -- 98.1 percent of the time."
As evidence, the campaign tallied the bills from The Oregonian’s government database and concluded that she voted with the majority of legislators 2,116 times, out of 2,157 votes cast in 2009’s regular session, 2010’s short session and 2011’s regular session.
The problem with that analysis is Democrats were in charge all years, with an 18-12 lead in 2009 and 2010, and a 16-14 majority in 2011. Which means Bonamici was able to vote with the majority without any Republican help. In fact, we spotted about 170 such heavily lopsided votes from her campaign’s own database, which means she voted against the Republican caucus at least 8 percent of the time.
We took Cornilles to task because it’s not accurate to characterize Bonamici as a button-pushing partisan hack. The members take lots of unanimous votes. They also work on many bipartisan issues.
But it’s inaccurate to say that she voted with Republicans 98 percent of the time. The closest she comes is a 90 percent match voting record with Sen. Jackie Winters over one session. We find no evidence of a Republican who has voted with her 98 percent of the time, much less the majority of Republicans. We rule the statement False.
PolitiFact Oregon, "Suzanne Bonamici votes with her party a partisan 98 percent of the time," Dec. 9, 2012
KGW/The Oregonian 1st Congressional District debate (video), Jan. 10, 2012
Bonamici campaign, "Bonamici’s bipartisan voting record," Nov. 28, 2011
Emails from Mark Friesen, Jan. 11, 2012
Interview with Carol Butler, Bonamici campaign, Jan. 11, 2012
Email from Mary Anne Ostrom, Jan. 12, 2012
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