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For months, Democrats have accused Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel of neglecting his official responsibilities because he failed to attend the first fourteen state Board of Deposit meetings that occurred during his term.
Mandel denies that he ducked his duties and says his office sent a representative to each meeting. PolitiFact Ohio rated a claim about his missing work because he was traveling, raising campaign money as Half True.
Now Mandel, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, is airing a statewide television ad that says Brown is ignoring his official duties. The ad claims that Brown and other politicians in Washington "think they can live by a different set of rules," and dings Brown for missing more than 350 votes in Congress.
"With 400,000 unemployed, we need a Senator who shows up to work," says the ad’s announcer, as the TV screen shows an empty chair. "Sherrod Brown missed over 350 official votes. When he finally showed up, voted to raise his own pay six times. Sherrod Brown, living by different rules than us."
PolitiFact decided to look at the ad’s suggestion that Brown has not shown up for work and its claim that he missed over 350 official votes.
A new release that announced the ad’s launch said Mandel’s campaign obtained its statistics from the GovTrack website. The news release also mentioned a fact missing from the ad that puts the missed votes in better perspective - they occurred over a period of more than 19 years, starting when Brown entered the U.S. House of Representatives in January 1993. A visit to the GovTrack website indicates there have been more than 10,000 recorded votes in that period.
The largest number of Brown’s missed votes - 83 - occurred in 2000. He missed 13.7 percent of that year’s votes after suffering broken ribs and vertebrae in a car accident in Knox County.
Brown spent more than a week in Mansfield MedCentral Hospital after the Jan. 30 crash, and missed occasional votes throughout the year because of follow-up medical treatments. For months after the crash, Brown wore an odd-looking plastic back brace around the U.S. Capitol. Then-President Clinton told Brown the brace made him resemble "a Roman soldier in a 1960s movie."
Brown’s second highest year for missed votes was 2006, the year of his successful U.S. Senate race against incumbent GOP Sen. Mike DeWine. He missed 51 votes that year. Thirty-four of them were in its third quarter, the height of campaign season.
Since he joined the U.S. Senate in 2007, GovTrack indicates that Brown has missed 21 out of 1779 votes - a 98.8 percent attendance record. This year, he hasn’t missed any votes. In 2011, he missed three. In 2010, he didn’t miss any.
When asked why Mandel’s ad didn’t provide the context that Brown’s missed votes occurred over nearly two decades, Mandel spokesman Travis Considine said its claims are "factual," and observed that Brown’s missed vote rate was higher than the congressional median. The GovTrak website says the median rate of missed votes for all members of Congress is 2.5 percent, while Brown’s rate is 3 percent.
"Why is it OK for Democrats to criticize Treasurer Mandel on meeting attendance but it’s not OK to question why Senator Brown missed more than 350 votes?" Considine asked in an email. "Are you employing a "different set of rules" for Brown and Mandel? "
Brown’s campaign responded to the ad with a news release that claimed Mandel is "desperately trying to distract from his own appalling attendance record" by attacking Brown. It said Brown’s voting record would have been better if not for the car crash, and the fact that he had to care for his dying mother in 2009, a year when records show that Brown missed eight votes.
There is an element of truth in Mandel’s claim: The ad correctly says that Brown has missed over 350 official votes.
But it omits critical facts that would convey a different impression. It doesn’t mention those missed votes were spread over more than 19 years that includes Brown’s time in the U.S. House of Representatives and during that time more than 10,000 votes occurred.
Brown’s voting attendance record throughout his congressional career - including time missed because of car crash injuries - is actually 96.5 percent. As a U.S. Senator, his attendance record is nearly 99 percent.
Knowing those facts, and that Brown missed 351 out of 10,074 votes since January of 1993, would give a listener a different impression.
On the Truth-O-Meter, the claim in the Mandel campaign ad rates Mostly False.
Associated Press, Ohio Treasurer a no-show at deposit board meetings,Jan. 25, 2012
Ohio Democratic Party Press Release, Josh Mandel thumbs his nose at Ohio taxpayers yet again, blows off 14th straight Board of Deposit meeting, Feb. 23, 2012
Sherrod Brown television ad, "Meetings," May 10, 2012
Josh Mandel television ad, "Different Set of Rules" Sept. 13, 2012
Sherrod Brown television ad, "Liar, Liar," Sept. 14, 2012
Josh Mandel for Senate Press Release, Josh Mandel releases new TV ad "Different Set of Rules," Sept. 13, 2012
Sherrod Brown for Senate Press Release, Ad Watch: Josh Mandel’s most ridiculous and misleading attack ad yet, Sept. 13, 2012
Emails with Mandel spokesman Travis Considine, Sept. 13, 2012
Interview with Brown spokesman Justin Barasky, Sept. 13, 2012
GovTrack.us page on U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, accessed Sept. 13, 2012
The Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com, "Sherrod Brown and Josh Mandel trade ad charges over attendance in U.S. Senate race," Sept. 14, 2012
The Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com, "Sherrod Brown’s attendance record? He’s had a few misses," January 10, 2012
The Plain Dealer, "Congressman, injured in crash on Ohio 661, leaves hospital," Feb. 9, 2000
The Plain Dealer, "Hail, Plasticus," March 19. 2000
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