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The National Republican Senatorial Committee -- the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm -- didn’t hold back in a campaign ad aimed at Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
The ad, released in early August, charged that "West Virginia Joe" had transformed himself into "Washington Joe." And a key exhibit for this argument was a pricey boat he owned.
Manchin owns a "$700,000 D.C. luxury yacht," the ad said, illustrating the claim with a photograph showing a docked vessel.
Is this accurate? We took a closer look.
Manchin’s campaign does not dispute that he owns a boat, "Almost Heaven," saying it is where Manchin has typically lived when in Washington and not back home in West Virginia.
In fact, the boat is hardly a secret. It has been written about periodically before; articles often mention sessions he’s held on the boat with other lawmakers to negotiate legislation and strategy.
In 2014, for instance, Time magazine wrote that both "Almost Heaven" and Manchin’s previous vessel, the "Black Tie," serve as "a kind of floating incubator of that tenderest of Washington flowers in the first decades of the 21st century: bipartisanship."
To back up its assertion, the NRSC provided PolitiFact with a document labeled "general index or abstract of title continuation sheet No. 1," the cost of the vessel was listed $700,000.
Manchin’s campaign instead offered a different document with a lower dollar figure.
That document, a memorandum of sale from 2014, said the purchase price for the vessel was $220,000. The document says that Manchin purchased the boat from M&T Bank, with National Liquidators as the broker of the sale.
Independent experts we contacted were unable to explain the difference in the two dollar figures, beyond speculating that the vessel was purchased from a seller eager to get rid of it and later insured at the boat’s market value.
According to Boats.com, any vessel "over 40 feet long almost always qualifies" as a yacht. By the length standard alone, that would qualify "Almost Heaven" as a yacht: The vessel, built in 2001, is 65 feet long, according to Coast Guard documents provided to PolitiFact by the NRSC.
Whether it’s a "luxury" vessel, however, is in the eye of the beholder.
According to the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, the word "yacht ... connotes elegance and expense." Boats.com adds, "Just as a cocky walk would never be mistaken for a limping shuffle, yacht attitude is the net result of a combination of factors that are easy to spot as a group but hard to quantify individually."
The vessel is listed as "recreational" on documents. However, a less confrontational -- but similarly accurate -- description could be "houseboat," since it is Manchin’s residence in Washington.
The NRSC said that Manchin has a "$700,000 D.C. luxury yacht."
There’s no dispute that Manchin has a boat docked in Washington, D.C. Its 40-foot length would generally qualify it as a yacht, but since Manchin lives there when he is in town, it could be just as easily described as a houseboat. The vessel was purchased for much less, but it appears to be insured for $700,000. Whether it qualifies as a "luxury" vessel is a matter of opinion.
The information we’ve found backs up elements of both the NRSC’s original assertion and Manchin’s counterargument, so we rate it Half True.
National Republican Senatorial Committee, tweet, Aug. 7, 2018
Boats.com, "When is a Boat Also a Yacht?" Aug. 22, 2018
Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, "Definitions of: Boat, Yacht, Small Craft, and Related Terms," Aug. 28, 2018
Time magazine, "Joe Manchin: The Outlier," Aug. 25, 2018
West Virginia Secretary of State, website, accessed Aug. 28, 2018
Email interview with Bob Salera, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Aug. 29, 2018
Email interview with Jonathan Kott, spokesman for Joe Manchin, Aug. 29, 2018
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