How we make the call
A false statement about a candidate’s position or a fact involving policy. It’s one thing to point out differences between records. It’s another for a candidate or third-party group to present false information or inaccurately portray a candidate’s political record.
A statement that distorts a candidate’s record or a fact involving policy, or which omits a fact that is essential to understanding a candidate’s position.
A statement that may be generally truthful, but lacks context and could easily mislead or be misconstrued.
A statement, however strident, that is based on accurate facts.
|Who:||Terri Lynn Land for Senate|
|What:||TV ad, “Roadblock”|
|The call:||No Foul|
“Running the Michigan Lottery, Peters allowed outsourcing a state contract to China.”
In this 30-second ad entitled, “Roadblock,” GOP Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land’s campaign brings attention to the fact that in 2003 the state granted a contract to a Chinese firm to manufacture Keno lottery pencils. The contract was granted shortly after Land’s opponent in the Senate race, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, was named state lottery commissioner.
The ad was released in July and the video was advertised on YouTube last week.
In October 2003, the state of Michigan bought 6 million golf scoring-size pencils made in China for $210,000, according to a story that ran in The Detroit News in 2005.
This is not the first time Peters has been jabbed with the short pencils. In 2008, when he successfully challenged then-Rep. Joe Knollenberg, a flier was circulated decrying the contract for the Keno pencils, calling it a plot to use Michigan taxpayers’ money to send jobs to China.
"Gary Peters has been silent for two weeks on what role he played in allowing a state contract to be outsourced to China,” said Heather Swift, campaign manager for Land. “Michigan voters deserve to know why Gary Peters is more concerned with foreign jobs than American jobs."
Shortly after the pencil contract was signed, the state took measures to prevent contracting with firms that would move jobs from Michigan to China. While not written in stone – or pencil – then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2004 issued executive directives for the state to favor qualified Michigan and U.S.-based vendors when seeking bids for contracts, and to prevent spending state money to help a business move jobs to another country.
As Peters’ camp has noted, at the time of the pencil contract no Michigan company submitted a bid. That means no Michigan workers were deprived of their jobs, no Michigan jobs were sent to China. A U.S. firm lost the bid to the Chinese firm because the Chinese bid was 30 percent lower. “The only U.S. bidder for the 6 million pencils came in at $46,000 per million while the Chinese bid winner was $31,000 per million — the Chinese company saved the state $90,000,” The Detroit News reported.
“In Congress, he [Peters] voted to send billions in tax dollars to foreign companies.”
The Truth Squad has said it before and it’s worth repeating: Yes, much of the federal stimulus money (which Peters supported) for wind energy development went to foreign manufacturers. But as with the pencil contract, that’s only part of the story.
Politifact, the fact-checking service of the Tampa Times, rated the claim “half true.” Politifact correctly noted that stimulus dollars did go to foreign companies, but it was because American companies did not build some key components needed to produce wind and solar power.
|The call:||No Foul|
Both passages in the Land ad are factually true, even though they paint an incomplete portrait of Peters’ actions.
The attack on the pencil contract fails to acknowledge that no Michigan vendor bid on that proposal. It also fails to note that the Chinese firm produced a 30-percent cost savings to the state over a rival bid from a U.S. company.
It’s also true that stimulus funds to expand wind energy went to foreign companies that built turbines for U.S. wind farms. The ad fails to state, however, that money went to those firms because of a shortage of U.S.-made components, context also missing from a similar attack ad earlier this election year against Mark Schauer, the Democratic candidate for governor.
As Truth Squad noted then, political ads are not required to acknowledge all sides of an issue. That is true, regrettably, even when that omission gives an incomplete portrait of a candidate’s decision making.