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Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin expressed her discontent for Republicans in name only, or RINOs, while talking about Arizona’s District 4 congressional race.
The Aug. 30 Republican primary is a two-man contest between three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Prescott and challenger Ray Strauss of Buckeye, whom Palin called a "malleable politician" willing to compromise.
"In other words, to sell us out, raise taxes, and spend more of your hard-earned money," Palin said in an Aug. 11 Facebook post supporting Gosar. "Dr. Gosar's opponent is actually classified by Americans for Prosperity for being a ‘Champion of Big Government' for his votes to raise taxes while on the local city council."
Palin was referring to Strauss, who served on the Buckeye City Council from June 2010 through May 2016.
We wondered whether Palin’s claims against Gosar’s opponent held any weight.
Not for taxes
We did not hear back from Palin or Strauss, but Gosar campaign spokesman Tom Van Flein pointed us to the Americans for Prosperity's 2016 scorecard. This conservative group, which advocates for limited government, annually grades local and state politicians based on their fiscal voting record.
Their scale ranges from Hero of the Taxpayer to Hero of Big Government:
According to his most recent scorecard for calendar year 2015, AFP did give Strauss a grade of "Champion of Big Government."
But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
In June 2015, the Buckeye City Council unanimously approved a $258 million budget for fiscal year 2015-16, $73 million more than the previous fiscal year.
"The (sic) rating in calendar year 2015 was for voting for a 39 percent increase in the city’s approved budget, from $185 million in fiscal year 2015 to $258 million in fiscal year 2016," Americans for Prosperity Arizona state director Tom Jenney said.
However, Strauss -- and the rest of the council -- did not vote to increase taxes. They actually approved a lower property tax rate of $1,800 per $100,000 of accessed property value.
Despite a lower tax rate, some homeowners may still pay more in taxes if their home is worth more, but it varies.
"It’s the assessed value on any given property that dictates whether someone’s overall taxes increase or decrease," said Buckeye finance director Larry Price. "She got her years wrong or just flat out missed it."
Moreover, while Strauss did get a "Champion of Big Government" rating for calendar year 2015, from calendar year 2007 through calendar year 2015, he averaged a score of -1, or "Needs Much Improvement."
And in calendar year 2014, AFP actually gave him a "Friend of the Taxpayer" rating.
We also examined the minutes for all the Buckeye City Council meetings in 2015 and found that Strauss voted against resolutions thought to be pro-government.
In August 2015, he voted against two resolutions for city employee raises, including one that would give raises to employees based on the city’s financial scope.
By comparison, Gosar received a perfect score from AFP, as his congressional votes coincided with the group’s position.
Palin said, "Dr. Gosar's opponent is actually classified by Americans for Prosperity for being a ‘Champion of Big Government' for his votes to raise taxes while on the local city council."
That’s misleading and leaves out important context.
The opponent in question, Ray Strauss, did not vote to raise taxes that year while on the Buckeye City Council.
And while the group did give him that rating in 2015, it wasn't a lifetime rating. Palin cherry-picks one year. On average, he has a much more moderate score from AFP.
We rate her claim Half True.
Sarah Palin, "Remarks on Facebook," Aug. 11, 2016
Americans for Prosperity, "AZ local government scorecard, by district, with sub-scores for calendar year 2015," accessed Aug. 16, 2016
Americans for Prosperity, "AZ local government scorecard, by district, with cumulative scores," accessed Aug. 16, 2016
Americans for Prosperity, "Scorecard: Rep. Paul Gosar," accessed Aug. 16, 2016
City of Buckeye, "Past and present meeting minutes and agendas," accessed Aug. 15, 2016
West Valley View, "Buckeye passes final budget," June 30, 2015
Interview with Gosar campaign spokesman Tom Van Flein, Aug. 15, 2016
Interview with Buckeye Finance Director Larry Price, Aug. 15, 2016
Interview with Americans for Prosperity Arizona State Director Tom Jenney, Aug. 16, 2016
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