Truth Squad calls foul on pro-Prop 2 attack on Schuette


Who: Protect Working Families, pro-Proposal 2 group

What: Internet/TV ads

Truth Squad call: Foul

The battle will likely continue down to the wire over Proposal 2, which would put collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers in the Michigan Constitution, as well as keep the Legislature from passing a Right to Work law. The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council calls Proposal 2 a pushback against recent actions by the governor and Legislature to restrict the bargaining power and costs of public-sector workers, including restriction of teacher tenure, higher out-of-pocket health-care costs and prohibiting minimum staffing levels for police and firefighters.

Protect Working Families started as Protect Our Jobs, and is funded mainly by labor interests.

Questionable statement: “How do you know a politician’s lying? His lips are moving. Bill Schuette’s claims? He argued them to Michigan’s Supreme Court, to keep collective bargaining off the ballot. They didn’t agree, and a Free Press ad called the ‘No’ ads ‘absurdities’ and ‘ridiculous.’”

Both sides’ elbows have been sharp in this battle, and in this ad, they were sharp enough that lawyers were called. The Detroit News reports that this ad has already been pulled, after an attorney for Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, a business-funded group opposing Proposal 2, contacted broadcasters airing the ad and claimed it made “categorically false” claims about Attorney General Bill Schuette. In keeping with the spirit of this race, Protect Working Families’ spokesman claimed the ad wasn’t pulled for that reason, but because “the ad was no longer needed because citizens are not buying (Schuette's) lies about Proposal 2."

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at it anyway. Schuette’s claims about the dangers of Proposal 2 are the foundation for much of the opposition ads. His July memorandum to the governor lays out a long list of laws he claims would be abrogated or “otherwise substantially limited” by the passage of Proposal 2 – more than 170. Truth Squad calls on previous ads based on the memo range from foul (that passage could lead to sexual predators in classrooms) to no foul (on claims about school safety and the potential for teacher strikes), noting that they rest on shaky semantic ground between “would” and “could.”

But. Schuette’s argument against putting Proposal 2 on the ballot, made last summer before the Supreme Court (by Solicitor General John Bursch), wasn’t based on this. As Gongwer reported in August (no link; story is behind a paywall), the attorney general’s argument was based on far more technical grounds – that it “violated Article XII, Section 2 of the Constitution, which requires proposals to list any sections of the Constitution that would be altered or abrogated,” and that the proposal would take the language of Article IV, Section 49, change it and put it in a new Constitutional section. It never mentioned the 170 laws.

The Court disagreed, and the proposal went on the ballot.

The Free Press column quoted in the ad, by Stephen Henderson, refers to Schuette’s later claims in his memo, not the argument before the court.

Questionable statement: “Yes on 2 doesn’t change any laws that protect kids. It’s the opposite. Yes on 2 protects kids.”

The second ad uses the pro-Proposal 2 endorsement of the Michigan PTA as its basis, with a PTA board member and two parents stressing that children’s safety is of utmost importance. The scene then shifts to Sheriff William Federspiel of Saginaw County, who makes a claim similar to one in previous ads, that far from endangering children by stripping them of legal protections (as those citing Schuette’s list have claimed), “it’s the opposite,” and that collective bargaining actually protects them.

That phrase – “it’s the opposite” – was used in a previous ad, and the Truth Squad wrote then:

Without collective bargaining, the ad implies, public-safety officers wouldn’t be able to negotiate for “training and tools they need to keep kids safe.” As in the case of the firefighters, collective bargaining can cover many work-related matters, including training and tools. Whether it’s only those training and tools that “keep kids safe” is a matter of interpretation.

Overall impression: While one ad never explicitly says the “170 abrogated laws” memo was the argument Schuette presented before the state Supreme Court, it clearly leaves that impression.

Foul or no foul: Foul. The “yes” ad wants you to believe Schuette is lying about Proposal 2. It fails to proof that case – and doesn’t even really try.

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Mike Svendsen
Wed, 10/31/2012 - 9:57pm
Why has nobody reported that the Michigan State Police are guaranteed the "Right of Collective Bargaining " in the State Constitution? It seems to me that what is good for the State Police , is good for all Citizens.