In a Time of Universal Deceit, Telling the Truth is Revolutionary.
Friday, July 19, 2024

Mangling the facts on the campaign trail

Rick Santorum campaigns in Puerto Rico (AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo)

Rick Santorum says oil drillers in the Gulf of Mexico are being slammed by “worse and worse and worse” delays in getting federal approval even as gas prices go through the roof. Actually, the wait for permits is getting better and better. Newt Gingrich boasts that small donors are powering his Republican presidential campaign. In reality, one deep-pocketed financial angel and other big money people have been doing loads of heavy lifting, too.

The claims of the Republican presidential rivals are not getting the exposure they once did, ever since the crackling series of debates drew to a close. But in smaller venues or turns on TV, the assertions still fly, as do exaggerations, oversimplifications and outright mistakes.

So, too, on the Democratic side. A polished new film from President Barack Obama’s campaign, out Thursday night, pushes the gauzy hero worship beyond what has really happened in recounting the auto industry bailout and recovery. Called “The Road We’ve Traveled,” the fundraising film takes Republican front-runner Mitt Romney out of context in the process.

A look at recent claims from the campaign trail and how they compare with the facts:

OBAMA CAMPAIGN on the automakers’ recovery: “With business booming, they repaid their loans.”

THE FACTS: The General Motors and Chrysler aid has not been paid back in full, and it is unlikely to be, contrary to the film’s narrator, actor Tom Hanks.

More than $1 billion of the $12.5 billion Chrysler bailout is not expected to come back to the government. The government has recouped more than $22 billion of its nearly $50 billion GM bailout after agreeing to take stock in return for most of its investment. But the government’s remaining stock would have to rise massively in value for taxpayers to get all their money back. If the stock were sold at some recent values, taxpayers would still be out more than $10 billion.


SANTORUM, speaking this week in Lafayette, La., a city heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry: The Obama administration “almost put this town under with the moratoriums, the delays in permitting that are getting worse and worse and worse — and as a result, the ability for the men and women who go out and drill these wells and service these wells, to go out and earn an income, and more importantly for them to get that oil and gas into the shore so we can use it here in this country.”

THE FACTS: Permit approval rates are actually getting faster for exploration wells, the type that was being drilled at the time of the BP well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2009, before the Macondo well blowout, it took the government 46 days to approve a drilling permit for a new deep-water well. After the accident, the administration imposed a five-month moratorium on new deep-water drilling while it worked on new safety regulations to minimize the risk of another spill like the one that released an estimated 200 million gallons of oil in the water, killing wildlife, soiling sensitive tidal estuaries and beaches, and closing vast areas of the Gulf to commercial fishing.

Once the moratorium was lifted, processing times for deep-water exploratory drilling permits were longer than before the spill — an average of 97 days.

But contrary to Santorum’s claim, the government’s performance is improving. Permit approvals are now happening on average in 62 days, more than a month faster. That’s 16 days longer than before the spill, but regulatory protections are tougher now.

Santorum also implies that the entire drilling industry was shut because of the moratorium. Yet, the temporary ban only covered wells drilled to explore or produce oil and gas in deep water. Wells already in production were not covered by the moratorium.


GINGRICH, emphasizing the importance of small donors to his campaign, at a rally Wednesday in Rosemont, Ill.: “We have over 175,000 donors now. Most of them are small. Over 95 percent of our donors give $250 or less.”

THE FACTS: Gingrich’s assertion is probably correct on its face, but not too meaningful. In almost all campaigns, the number of small-dollar donors far exceeds the number of major givers. President Barack Obama’s campaign, for example, makes a similar boast — that 98 percent of its 1 million contributors gave small amounts.

A more significant number is how much of the money Gingrich raised came in small denominations and how much in big checks. Federal Election Commission reports show that through Jan. 31, roughly $11.5 million came from donations under $250. That’s about 63 percent Gingrich’s total fundraising. For Obama, the comparable figure is nearly 80 percent.

And the whole calculus leaves out the biggest influence on the Gingrich campaign’s financial fortunes — the group Winning Our Future, an independent super PAC that has been running ads supporting him. Of that group’s $13.1 million in total contributions, about 75 percent — or $10 million — came from just two people: Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam.


CHICAGO MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, quoted in the Obama campaign film on Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout: “A lot of conventional wisdom wanted to do what Mitt Romney did — let it go, can’t be saved, why put good money after bad?”

THE FACTS: Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, joins some of Romney’s Republican rivals in twisting the meaning of his 2008 New York Times article opposing the bailout. The article’s headline, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” has caused Romney plenty of grief, and the film displays it. But his prescription was meant to save the automakers by having them go through bankruptcy, with the government guaranteeing financing afterward and backing up new car warranties. There is plenty of skepticism that such an idea would have worked, given the chaos in private lending institutions at the time, but he never argued that the auto industry could not be saved.

The film portrays Obama as a lone figure in Washington in standing for the automakers. In it, Vice President Joe Biden declares: “Everybody, Democrats, Republicans, I mean it was overwhelming, look at the polling number: Do not rescue the automobile industry.” Although polls consistently suggested most Americans opposed the bailout, public and political opinion was not that cut and dried. In a February 2009 Gallup poll, 52 percent of Democrats favored the aid, and enough lawmakers did, too, to make it happen.


ROMNEY on whether Obama is responsible for high gasoline prices, speaking Thursday on Fox News: “Absolutely. He has not pursued policies that convince the world that America is going to become energy secure and energy independent. He held off drilling in the Gulf. He’s held off drilling out of ANWR. He said no to the Keystone pipeline from Canada.”

THE FACTS: Despite the former Gulf moratorium, Obama’s opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and his decision to delay — not kill — the Keystone XL project, the U.S. produced more oil in 2010 than it has since 2003, and all forms of energy production have increased. Offshore production alone surged in the first two years of the Obama administration after being on a downward trend since 2003.

Rising energy demand in developing countries, a cold winter in Europe and tensions with Iran have put pressures on the world oil market and are among the contributors to higher gasoline prices that presidents have little if any power to control.


Associated Press writers Dina Cappiello, Jack Gillum, Steve Peoples, Ken Thomas and Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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3 thoughts on “Mangling the facts on the campaign trail”

  1. Al, in my long history of working for the GOP, we never had a bad thing to say about another Republican. We did this long before Reagan was in office. Even in 1964 when it came down to the final convention and Goldwater managed to have the advantage over Rockefeller in the delegate count.

    There was one N.Y. Times columnist who wandered into the Airport when we met Goldwater before the convention. No hissing, no booing as this dude had worked for Rockefeller for years. He also made a quiet and dignified congratulations to Senator Goldwater and the whole thing was over and done with.

    When Dole had won the GOP place on the ballot I was at that convention and saw the Texas Delegation storm out hissing and booing when the Congressman from Arizona reported on their delegates. Jim was gay and I knew then and there that our politics were heading for dirty tricks. Obviously Texas had no manners when it came to politics. Now we see our candidates acting like low-class hicks.

    There is no recourse for this kind of behavior. When I saw our soldiers pissing on dead Afghanistan it made me sick. Americans have the manners of goats and pigs.

    Women train the children to learn good manners but in America this is no longer necessary.

  2. How very sad it is when the individual candidates work to destroy all other candidates of the same party. Senator Santorum claims that Conservatives will not vote for Romney if he is the candidate. Ron Paul also stated that he would not work for Romney either.

    If this mess waits until Tampa convention before a candidate is chosen, what will the Conservatives do?

    These primary elections are done basically to gather delegates. Is 2012 going to be a new force to eliminate unwanted Republicans from the convention as well as all base Republicans from the voting facilities?

    I personally have no problem and will vote for President Obama but I would prefer a second Party to be based on the U.S. Constitution, not the New Testament.

    This election will produce a flurry of new books much like the “Game Change” that explained what went wrong in the GOP in 2008. 2012 might just count the GOP out of future elections. I fear the Religious Right gained more than the American people want or need.

    Many even here on the home page show absolutely no respect for our candidates. They do show the lack of intelligence that is missing from both sides of the aisle.

    I have been accused of slandering religious Conservatives, but I know what they demand for America and it will put our nation in a state of continuing war with Islam. Maybe that is what CHB wants. How many here know exactly what this will mean to every American?

    In my world, if you want change, get off your asses and dump the House and Senate! Praying never saved a nation from destruction!

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