PolitiFact Wisconsin highlights 2018 True and Pants on Fire ratings

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., campaigned in Eau Claire, Wis., on July 14, 2018 for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who is running for a second term in 2018. (Bill Glauber/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., campaigned in Eau Claire, Wis., on July 14, 2018 for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who is running for a second term in 2018. (Bill Glauber/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The last year was an eventful one for Wisconsin politics, highlighted by a gubernatorial race that started out with more than a dozen Democratic hopefuls and wound up with one of them (State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers) ousting Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

National attention was also focused on a contentious U.S. Senate race, with incumbent Tammy Baldwin turning back Republican challenger Leah Vukmir by nearly 11 percentage points.  

With the year nearly over, we decided to take a look at both ends of the Truth-O-Meter.

Which claims earned the green light True rating (the statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing)?

And which were gonged with a flaming Pants on Fire rating (inaccurate and makes a ridiculous claim)?

Here are five of each:

2018 True ratings:

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said "The three wealthiest people" own "more wealth than the bottom half of the American people."

The wealth of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett exceeded that of the 160 million Americans at the bottom of the scale, according to a 2017 study. And more recent estimates indicate the wealth of the three has since grown dramatically, widening the gap even more.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., said "The past president (Barack Obama) brought Al Sharpton into the White House something like 80 times."

Our sleuthing of the massive visitor log came up with these listed names: Alfred C. Sharpton -- 78; Alfred Sharpton -- 27; Al Sharpton -- 13. That comes to a total of 118 visits. (For the record, the Trump Administration has not made its White House visitor log information available to the public.)

Walker said "Since taking office, we have enacted more than $8 billion in cumulative tax relief."

The state’s official nonpartisan budget scorekeeper puts the figure -- since Walker took office in 2011 and through the current budget that runs through mid-2019 -- at $8.47 billion.

State Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, a former gubernatorial candidate, said: "We are last in the nation in startups — 50th."

The go-to national research on the subject, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, shows Wisconsin was indeed last — and has been for the last three years.

Rebecca Dallet, then a Supreme Court candidate, said that as a Milwaukee County circuit  judge, she had "presided over more than 10,000 cases."

The best-available count showed Dallet handled some 11,800 cases, including criminal and civil matters.

2018 Pants on Fire ratings:

Vukmir, a Republican state senator, said "I have been through the gauntlet, when we had riots in that Capitol."

That vastly overstates what happened in 2011 during the Act 10 protests. The claim of "riots" in the Capitol was debunked (and rated Pants on Fire) at the time and rarely came up since. That is, until Vukmir put herself on the hot seat by recycling the claim.

Vukmir said a proposal from U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, to eliminate the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would "eliminate border enforcement."

But enforcing the border is not even ICE’s job. Rather, the agency pursues unauthorized immigrants who are already inside the country. A different federal agency is responsible for patrolling the border. And, in any case, Pocan was not proposing to end border enforcement.

President Donald Trump said Wisconsin "hadn’t been won by a Republican since Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1952. And I won Wisconsin. …  Ronald Reagan, remember, Wisconsin was the state that Ronald Reagan did not win."

According to the American Presidency Project, the following Republicans have won Wisconsin’s presidential vote since 1952: Dwight Eisenhower (1956), Richard Nixon (1960, 1968, 1972),  Ronald Reagan (1980, 1984) and Donald Trump (2016).

And, for the record, the one state Reagan lost in 1984 was neighboring Minnesota, not Wisconsin.

Democratic congressional challenger Tom Palzewicz said GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner "has been in office for 40 years" and "he's led on exactly one bill," the Patriot Act.

Palzewicz told us he meant to say the anti-terrorism law is the only Sensenbrenner-sponsored bill of note. But as for what Palzewicz actually claimed, Sensenbrenner has sponsored 500 bills and amendments, including 34 that became law.

David A. Clarke Jr., former Milwaukee County sheriff, said Hillary Clinton once said "the average Democrat voter is just plain stupid, they’re easy to manipulate."   

Not only is there no evidence to confirm the alleged quote, which surfaced on a site dedicated to generating fake Clinton quotes, it had been debunked two years earlier.