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Michigan Democrats get fouls for some 'hits' on Hoekstra, Truth Squad rules


Who: Michigan Democratic Party

What: Internet ad

Truth Squad call: Fouls

Questionable statement: "Restricting Women's Access to Health Care … (Pete) Hoekstra wants to ban birth control & allow insurance companies to deny coverage for mammograms & pre-natal tests."

The Michigan Democratic Party ad criticizing Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra cites two positions by Hoekstra, who prides himself on a 100 percent pro-life record.

First, he co-sponsored, more than once, a federal "Personhood" constitutional amendment, which would establish that life begins at the moment of fertilization. The measure would ban virtually all abortions (including those that are the result of rape or incest) despite the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

Supporters acknowledge that it would ban at least some forms of birth control, including the morning-after pill and some IUDs. In an interview on NPR's Dianne Rehm show, a spokesman for a Mississippi ballot initiative on a Personhood Amendment (which was defeated) said "once that embryo is formed, any birth control that ends the life of that human being will be impacted by these measures."

Hoekstra said he supported the so-called Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed employers to opt out of any medical service coverage that they opposed on moral or religious grounds. This would unquestionably have implications for some health-care services for women, including pre-natal tests, which are expensive and sometimes lead to decisions to abort when birth defects are detected. The American Cancer Society said it would apply to preventive services like mammograms and smoking cessation programs.

Questionable statement: "Ending Medicare and Privatizing Social Security."

Hoekstra told a Tea Party gathering he would "embrace" Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's Medicare reform proposal, which would partially privatize Medicare by creating a voucher system for future retirees (those who are currently under age 55).

The advertisement misstates the impact in a second layer of citation that asserts it would "end Medicare as we know it for 1.5 million seniors." Rather, the voucher system would be put in place for people who are not now "seniors" – at least as would be defined in relation to Medicare eligiblity.

Here is a summary of the plan by the Washington Post.

As to Social Security, Hoekstra told the Tea Party forum that the best plan in the long run "is to let our kids and grandkids develop personal accounts." The Detroit Free Press reported in his 2006 congressional re-election campaign that, "He favors a solution that allows younger workers to invest some retirement earnings in a personal account that ensures retirees may draw full benefits from a fund to which they have contributed throughout their careers."

The issues page of his current campaign website does not mention Social Security, one way or another.

Questionable statement: "... and raise the average senior’s health costs $6,400 per year."

This is a reference to a report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities that calculates a $6,400 cost gap off of the Ryan plan.

However, as detailed by Politifact, that calculation was off of Ryan's original Medicare plan. He has since revised the details. Politifact could not make an explicit determination on a cost gap figure, though its analysis indicated that the gap under the revised Ryan plan would be less than $6,400.

Questionable statement: "Even More Tax Breaks for Millionaires, Higher Taxes for the Rest of Us … Hoekstra endorsed a plan that would raise taxes on middle-class families by an average of $4,400."

The ad includes a video clip of Hoekstra supporting unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan. "We're all on board for 9-9-9," he says in the clip.

9-9-9 would replace the current tax system with a 9 percent personal income tax, 9 percent personal corporate income tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax. The assertions about the financial impact are from an analysis the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

The Washington Post, citing the Tax Policy Center, reported that households making between $10,000 and $20,000 would see a "$2,700" increase. Those making between $40,000 and $50,000 would see an average increase of "$4,400" and those making between $50,000 and $75,000 would see an average increase of "$4,326."

Questionable statement: "Opposing Equal Pay for Women."

The ad includes a video clip of Hoekstra responding to a question about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2009. "That thing is a nuisance. It shouldn't be the law."

The law expands the opportunities for women to pursue legal challenges alleging pay discrimination by beginning the statute of limitations period with the last paycheck in which discrimination occurred, rather than with the start of the discrimination. It was in response to a court decision in which Lilly Ledbetter, a tire company supervisor, filed suit six months before taking early retirement, but had the case thrown out because the discrimination began many years earlier. The details are laid out in this Time magazine article.

Democrats argued that absent the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, employers could and did get away with pay discrimination by keeping it covered up until the statute of limitations expired. Republicans, including Hoekstra, overwhelmingly opposed the measure. They warned that it could lead to claims decades after the alleged discrimination began.  

Questionable statement: "Drilling in our Great Lakes … Hoekstra wants to drill for oil in the Great Lakes."

Hoekstra has had conflicting positions on Great Lakes drilling. In a forum with The Lake Orion Tea Party in May, he said, "I would not support putting a well in the lake. I would support the new technology now that allows you to drill, you know, onshore, drill down, and drill -- I'm a marketing guy -- and then drill sideways. Laterally."

In 2001, on the House floor, he said "The only appropriate policy is to keep drills out of the Great Lakes." His statement came before supporting legislation prohibiting the Army Corps of Engineers from considering permits for new drilling operations. He said congressional action was necessary because there was a patchwork of conflicting state and provincial (Canada) policies. You can see the speech on C-SPAN here.

After the comments at the Tea Party forum drew media attention and criticism from Republican rival Clark Durant, a Hoekstra spokesman said that he opposes Great Lakes drilling, but believes that it should be a state rather than a federal decision.

Hoekstra's most recent comments are that he would not support drilling in the Great Lakes.

Questionable statement: "Killing Federal Student Loans … I tried to kill federal student loans for 18 years."

The ad includes a clip of Hoekstra telling the audience at a Tea Party forum that "I tried to kill federal student loans for 18 years." He also told the audience, although it's not mentioned in the ad, that "loans are something that can be done in the private sector."

Questionable statement: "Hoekstra would put the drug and insurance companies before Michigan’s seniors if elected to the United States Senate -- that’s why an out-of-state Super PAC funded by drug companies has already spent almost $1 million helping Hoekstra."

The Super PAC 60 Plus Association is the political action committee the Democrats are referring to. It has run ads attacking Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow for supporting health-care bills. Democrats frequently make claims that 60 Plus is funded by insurance or drug companies, but have not put forth evidence. Because it is a 501(c)(4), 60 Plus isn't required to disclose its funding.

In a letter posted on its website, 60 Plus Association President Jim Martin wrote, "The reality is, however, 60 Plus has not accepted Pharma donations or insurance dollars for years."

If Democrats have proof to the contrary, they should present it.

Questionable statement: "In 2008, Hoekstra voted for the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, but against limiting bonuses for CEOs in the aftermath."

Hoekstra did vote for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, often referred to as the "Wall Street bailout."  He told a Tea Party forum he did so after businesses in his district said they feared they would go under. He voted against legislation that would have limited bonuses for executives in companies that benefited from the bailout.

Questionable statement: "Instead of fighting against China’s anti-competitive and illegal trade practices, Hoekstra is making excuses for the Chinese government. He says it’s America’s fault that our jobs are going overseas and said 'the problem is American public policy, American domestic policy. … the problem here is not anything the Chinese are doing at all.'"

Hoekstra launched his Senate ad campaign with a controversial Super Bowl ad in which an actor playing a Chinese woman thanks Stabenow for supporting fiscal policies that she says move jobs to China. Hoekstra defended the ad in an interview on CNN where he made the comments that are quoted in the Democratic ad. You can see the transcript of the interview here.

Questionable statement: "Hoekstra voted repeatedly for tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas to countries like China and then voted against job retraining programs for people in Michigan hurt by outsourcing."

The Democrats cite a number of Hoekstra votes, including his opposition to the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act in 2010. Republicans contended that the legislation would harm the ability of American companies to compete globally.

As far as job retraining, Democrats cite votes in 2004 and 2005 on motions or amendments they said would provide for additional training. Hoekstra voted against an amendment to a bill that would have added an advanced manufacturing training program.

Questionable statement: "His fellow Republicans support the ban on Great Lakes drilling because a disaster like the BP or Enbridge spills could destroy the lakes -- and the thousands of jobs that depend on them. Hoekstra would risk that even though all the oil in the Great Lakes could only fuel America for about two weeks!"

Republicans are not necessarily united against Great Lakes drilling, but Republican primary rival Clark Durant was opposed. Durant said, "There are plenty of untapped sources of oil and natural gas without handing in any way to breach the Great Lakes."

A U.S. Geological Survey report estimated there were 312 million barrels of potentially recoverable oil under the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes. . The U.S. daily consumption is about 19 million barrels, according to this CNN report and supported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That's 16 days.

Questionable statement: "No coincidence that a Super PAC founded by billionaire oil executives is spending big trying to buy the election for Hoekstra."

Americans for Prosperity has been waging an aggressive campaign criticizing Stabenow. Its founders include Charles and David Koch, billionaires whose holdings include oil, gas and pipeline entities.

Questionable statement: "While middle class families are concerned with jobs, the economy, caring for their kids, and having a secure retirement, Hoekstra is on the trail talking about his plan to create a new federal birther office."

At a Tea Party forum this spring (long after President Obama released his long-form birth certificate), Hoekstra was asked about the issue of Obama's birthplace. He left the impression that the matter had been settled politically, but not factually.

"I hate to say it, but I think the debate’s over — we lost that debate, and we lost that debate in 2008, when our presidential nominee (John McCain) said, ‘I ain’t talking about it.’ OK, I’m sorry," Hoekstra said. He said he'd like to establish a three-person office, including representatives of the FBI and CIA, that would determine that candidates in the future meet constitutional qualifications for the office.

You can view his full statement here.

Questionable statement: "Hoekstra made news when he kicked off his campaign with a Super Bowl ad, but not the kind he was hoping for. The infamous ad was called 'offensive,' 'appalling' and 'really, really dumb' -- and that was what Hoekstra’s fellow Republicans said about it."

Hoekstra's ad drew nationwide attention and was criticized as being racially offensive and bad politics. Among the critics, Republican consultant Nick DeLeeuw wrote, "Shame on Pete Hoekstra for that appalling new advertisement. Racism and xenophobia aren't the way to get things done."

Questionable statement: "Hoekstra’s commercial was hypocritical. He made accusations about spending, but he voted for three of the biggest drivers of the national debt: the Bush tax cuts for millionaires, the Iraq War and a giant taxpayer giveaway to drug companies."

Voters can decide about the hypocrisy conclusion. But Hoekstra did support the Bush tax cut and the Iraq War. He also voted for the expansion of Medicare to cover prescription drugs (the "giant taxpayer giveaway to drug companies"). These have all had a major impact on the federal debt. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, estimated that the Iraq ar and the Bush tax cuts contributed $500 billion to the debt win 2009. It did not have the data to estimate the impact of the prescription drug program.

A report by the trustees of the Social Security and Medicare systems this year notes that the federal general fund pays 76 percent of Medicare Part D (prescription drug) coverage.

According to a 2009 ProPublica report, "As ideas for (Medicare Part D) were being debated, several proposals were introduced that would have allowed the government to negotiate for lower drug prices, as it does for the drugs it buys for Medicaid and for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"But after intense lobbying by pharmaceutical companies, and strong-arm tactics by House leaders, the final bill instead specifically barred the government from negotiating lower drug prices. It also banned importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and gave drug companies stronger protections against their generic competitors."

Foul or no foul: Fouls. The version of the Medicare plan put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan does not create a voucher system for Medicare for current seniors. The senior health-cost increase figure is based on an older version of the Ryan plan, not the most recent one. The ad ignores Hoekstra's most recent statement that he opposes drilling in the Great Lakes. The ad makes a claim about a Super PAC receiving drug firm money without presenting proof.

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