Monday, September 13, 2010

FACT CHECK: 60Plus Association's Ads Attacking Giffords, Kirkpatrick, Mitchell

The national organization that bills itself as the "conservative alternative to the liberal AARP" is spending more than $4 million in ads attacking several Democratic Congresspeople - including three in Arizona.  Ads "firing" Gabrielle Giffords, Ann Kirkpatrick and Harry Mitchell are up and running (frequently) in Phoenix and Tucson (and presumably Flagstaff). 

The ads attack the Democrats for voting for the "Obama Pelosi health care disaster" which "will raise taxes, cut $500 billion from Medicare, threaten seniors' ability to keep your own doctors, and will hurt the quality of our care."  They accuse the Representatives of pretending to be independent, but voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "when we needed (them) to stand up for us." 

"Gabrielle Gifford," concludes one ad, "you're fired."  The anti-Mitchell and anti-Kirkpatrick ads end similarly.

These ads do not provide any supporting documentation for their four distinct claims about the health care reform package that was signed into law in March 2010;  therefore, this article cannot fully address the claims.  A verbal request for the documentation is outstanding.  Let's look at the claims one-by-one:

1) The law will raise taxes:  Yes, the healthcare reform package does raise taxes.  Also of relevance, however, is that the Congressional Budget Office/Joint Committee on Taxation - widely considered as objective and authoritative - have concluded that the laws will also reduce spending by the federal government in many areas, and will result in a total estimated $152 billion reduction of the federal government's budget deficits between 2010 and 2020.   Acknowledging that many Republicans and Democrats are concerned about budget deficits at the federal level, that is an important bottom line.  Also significant is that the CBO's analysis finds that the effect on the overall American economy is to reduce the overall spending increases on health care.  Conclusion: Accurate by omission;  ergo, misleading.
2) The law will cut $500 billion from Medicare:  It is unclear where this figure came from, but it appears to be from an old version of healthcare reform.  The CBO has concluded that the "net reduction in Medicare spending" will actually only be $117 billion through 2019!  Just as important is WHY there will be a reduction.  The new laws will reduce the amounts paid by Medicare to private corporations that are administering Medicare Advantage plans; they will be restricted on how they could utilize "rebates" from Medicare and would have to charge enrollees if they overbid the formula for costs in their area.  Thus, the CBO estimates that the enrollment in the Medicare Advantage problems will be 4.8 million less than if the law had not been passed.  (Those 4.8 million people could receive similar coverages elsewhere.)

The second part of this claim is the inference that Medicare benefits to seniors - including the ones speaking in the ads - are going to be cut.  However, that is not the case, and in fact, Medicare will actually cover annual check-ups and increase reimbursements to primary care physicians.

Conclusion: False and misleading.
3) The law will threaten seniors' ability to keep your own doctors:  This is apparently based on the assumption that some physicians will not accept Medicare patients.  Although this is always a possibility, there is nothing concrete to back this up.  Conclusion: Scare tactic.
4) The law will hurt the quality of our care: There is nothing concrete to back this up.  Conclusion: See #3.

OVERALL:  This campaign is designed to capitalize on discontent about the health care reform package that was signed into law earlier this year.  While - to its credit - it does not invoke the "death panels" mantra, it does promote other misleading claims and throws in some inaccurate numbers. 

FINAL GRADES:  With an "A" being completely true and accurate, and an "F" being completely false and misleading, this grades out at a "C-".  If the advertiser supplies us with sources to support their claims, we will check 'em out and amend as necessary.  (Unfortunately, there is certainly a tendency to grade political attack ads on a curve, in order to avoid giving out all "F"'s; we try to avoid that trap.)

TRANSPARENCY GRADE: The "60 Plus Association" also receives a grade of "F" for its lack of transparency on the source of funds for this campaign.  The Association's entire annual budget in 2007 and 2008 was approximately $1.8 million; there is no disclosure as to where this sudden expenditure of more than $4 million is coming from.



--Washington liberals like Gabrielle Giffords are not listening to Arizona seniors.
--The Obama Pelosi health care disaster will raise taxes, cut $500 billion from Medicare,
--Threaten seniors' ability to keep you own doctors, and will hurt the quality of our care.
--Giffords pretends she's independent, but when we needed her to stand up for us,
--Giffords voted with Pelosi - just like all the other liberals.
--Arizona seniors have had enough.
--Gabrielle Giffords, you're fired!


Unknown said...

With the 60 Plus Association TV ads, Schweikert has more TV ads running than Mitchell right now. Thanks to that group, Schweikert should end up beating Mitchell. Both the DCCC and the AFL-CIO have decided to pull out of spending money in Arizona's Congressional races, to focus on more winnable races in other states. Mitchell is polling way behind Schweikert, and various groups on the right are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race to help Schweikert, including the NRCC. Early ballots go out in less than a month. There's no way your guy Mitchell can catch up.

Mitch M. said...

Thanks for the comment, Alicia! Anecdotally, I agree that Schweikert (and the other Republican challengers) have more ads on the air than the vulnerable Democratic incumbents. Whether that translates to victory, we'll leave 'til November.

Correction, though: Mitchell is not my guy. I am attempting to report on election news that catches my (limited) attention in an objective manner. I am attempting to fact check and grade claims fairly. My professional and personal background includes both unbiased reporting and biased advocacy - I strive to keep the two separate.

I have spoken with both Mitchell and Schweikert, they are both knowledgeable and likable. As you noted, the Republican ads out-number the Democratic ads, and that might explain the slant you perceive - but, I will fact check and call out ads (or claims) from either side.

Feel free to call my attention to claims from either side that you believe deserve fact checking! Thanks!

Ann said...

I just discovered this blog. Thanks for posting this. I hope you'll also do an analysis of the statewide ballot questions.

Mitch M. said...

Thank you, Ann! And, I appreciate the suggestion - something that I do have on my to-do list! (By the way, I'm always willing to look into collaborating with interested folks!)