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After seizing control of the Ohio House of Representatives two years ago, Republicans are now working to maintain, and even stretch, their considerable majority over House Democrats in the Nov. 6 election.
Among the closely watched House races is a rematch between Republican incumbent Mike Dovilla and Democrat Matt Patten to represent a district that includes Strongsville, Berea and a few other suburbs.
Dovilla, a Navy veteran and a small business owner, could be vulnerable because he voted in favor of Senate Bill 5 – the bill to restrict public workers’ collective bargaining power that voters ultimately repealed – and because the 18th House District has a solid mix of Democratic and Republican voters.
With an eye on keeping his seat, Dovilla has begun distributing campaign literature that touts the achievements of his first term in office.
"Mike Dovilla’s big ideas like expanding the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, which helped bring films like ‘The Avengers’ to Cleveland, have helped make our state No. 1 in the Midwest for job creation," a piece of his recent campaign literature said.
"The Avengers" is one of the highest grossing films of all time and had a positive impact on the local economy. A study commissioned by the Greater Cleveland Film Commission estimated the movie spent $25 million in Ohio and employed more than 3,870 state residents.
But is Dovilla claiming a role with landing the film in Ohio? PolitiFact Ohio decided to check into his claim.
When the movie tax credit was established in 2009, Dovilla was not in office.
Lawmakers included the movie tax credit in the state budget passed that year. As a result, producers for "The Avengers" chose to film part of the movie in Cleveland and ended up receiving tax credits created worth about $6.7 million, according to the Ohio Department of Development.
Dovilla didn’t take office until 2011. Although he had nothing to do with creating the initial movie tax credit, he did sponsor legislation this year to expand the program. The expansion doubled the money available through the credit from $10 million per year to $20 million per year.
When we contacted Dovilla to explain his claim, he said the campaign literature was not meant to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between the expansion of the movie tax credit and the decision to film part of "The Avengers" in Cleveland.
"It says the tax credit helped bring films like ‘The Avengers’ to Cleveland, not the expansion," he said.
Dovilla said the phrase "which helped bring films like ‘The Avengers’ to Cleveland" referred to the tax credit itself, not the expansion of the tax credit.
Dovilla also said he believes the average person in his district would know that the Avengers was filmed in Cleveland well before lawmakers extended the tax credit and, therefore, the average person would understand that the original movie tax credit – passed before Dovilla took office – brought the Avengers to Cleveland, not the expansion that he sponsored.
Mike Dittoe, a spokesman for House Speaker William G. Batchelder on a leave of absence to assist the GOP House campaigns, also said Dovilla’s campaign literature was not meant to convey the tax credit expansion attracted "The Avengers."
"You could word it this way and have the same meaning as the first: ‘The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit has helped bring films like ‘The Avengers’ to Cleveland. Mike Dovilla’s big ideas, like expanding that tax credit, have helped make our state No. 1 in the Midwest for job creation," Dittoe said in an e-mail.
But that’s not what Dovilla’s campaign literature says. And in PolitiFact Ohio’s view, words matter.
The problem with Dovilla’s claim is that there are different ways that a reader could interpret it.
One could argue, as he does, that he was championing the success of the motion picture tax credit, and touting his role in pushing for its expansion. Or, one could look at his claim and infer a clear connection between expansion of the tax credit and filming "The Avengers" in Cleveland.
Dovilla said the ad isn’t meant to suggest his idea brought "The Avengers" to Cleveland, but a natural reading of his claim could suggest exactly that.
The ad is partially accurate – the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit did help bring movie jobs to the state, and Dovilla did champion the movie tax credit expansion.
But that it leaves out important details and takes things out of context.
"The Avengers" movie came to Cleveland due to the original tax credit, which was established before Dovilla took office. And while Dovilla supported the expansion of the credit, it does not take effect until September.
On the Truth-O-Meter, Dovilla’s claim rates Half True.
State Rep. Mike Dovilla, re-election campaign literature, distributed in July 2012
Phone interview with Mike Dovilla, July 23, 2012
E-mail correspondence with Stephanie Mennecke, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Development, July 23, 2012
E-mail correspondence with Mike Dittoe, Republican spokesman, July 18, 2012
News release from Mike Dovilla’s office, "Rep. Dovilla Announces Passage of Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit," May 25, 2012
The Plain Dealer, "Legislators seek rewrite on movie deals," April 18, 2012
Dayton Daily News, "Ohio No. 2 in Job Creation," June 15, 2012
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