"The photonics bill that was sponsored in Congress and written, was written by Congressman Tom Reed, not Congresswoman Louise Slaughter."

Mark Assini on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 in a debate on WROC

Money for Rochester's photonics institute came before Reed bill

Rep. Louise Slaughter at the announcement of a photonics institute in Rochester on July 27, 2015 (Courtesy: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's Flickr page)

U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D- Fairport, often takes credit for a new photonics manufacturing institute coming to Rochester. But her Republican opponent for the 25th Congressional District seat says the credit belongs elsewhere.

During a debate, Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini credited a congressman from another district in New York State for securing the photonics funding.

"The photonics bill that was sponsored in Congress and written, was written by Congressman Tom Reed, not Congresswoman Louise Slaughter," said Assini, a Republican.

Reed, R-Corning, represents a congressional district south of Rochester.

"There's about 100 co-sponsors on this bill, and guess whose name was not on that co-sponsorship list?" Assini asked.

Slaughter replied that her work on the project took place several years before Reed introduced his bill in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

"So he didn’t have a thing in the world to do with it, didn’t even have it decide to be photonics and to have it come to Rochester," she said.

So, who’s right? 

The photonics timeline

Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics in Rochester last year. When completed, the institute is expected to add hundreds of new jobs to the region. It’s one of the largest investments in Rochester by the state and federal governments in recent years.

Assini does not dispute Slaughter supported the project, but he believes she had no part in the legislation that brought the institute to the region.

In fact, there was no legislation that led to the photonics institute. It was the result of an Obama administration initiative to spur advanced manufacturing in the United States, largely funded out of existing Defense Department money.

In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued a report with its recommendations for boosting manufacturing investment and innovation. Among those recommendations: a "national network of innovation institutes."

In response to that recommendation, the Obama administration created  the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation in 2014. The network brings together research institutions, private-sector companies and nonprofits to come up with innovations in advanced manufacturing.

No member of Congress had to do anything to secure funding. The money was already in the Department of Defense, which announced funding for creation of a photonics institute in 2014. Slaughter did send three letters that year asking the Obama administration to consider Rochester as a location for one of the institutes created under the program.

But it was SUNY Polytechnic Institute that submitted the Rochester proposal on behalf of the SUNY Research Foundation and a consortium of 124 companies, nonprofits and universities. No elected officials, including Slaughter, were involved in writing and submitting the application, according to Empire State Development.

In June 2015, Cuomo, Biden and other lawmakers announced state and federal funding for the institute.

Where did the funding come from?

Assini says his debate reference was to the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014, or RAMI. Under RAMI, the Secretary of Defense can provide financial assistance "to a person or group of persons to assist the organization in planning, establishing, or supporting a center for manufacturing innovation."

The bill was sponsored by Reed in the House, but did not pass as a standalone bill. It was later included in an omnibus spending bill that became law in December 2014.

RAMI had nothing to do with the Rochester institute, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Rochester institute would have been approved and funded even if RAMI had not passed. The funding had already been announced by the Department of Defense before RAMI became law in December 2014.

Our ruling

At a debate between candidates in the 25th Congressional District, Assini said, "The photonics bill that was sponsored in Congress and written, was written by Congressman Tom Reed, not Congresswoman Louise Slaughter."

Financial support for the new photonics institute comes from Department of Defense funds that existed before Congress approved the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014. 

The Department of Defense says Rochester was selected based on the application prepared by SUNY Polytechnic Institute. The state says no lawmakers were involved in crafting the application, but Slaughter did ask the Obama administration to consider Rochester in the selection process.

We rate Assini’s claim as False.