Anti-Peters 'Roadblock' ad hits a speed bump

How we make the call

Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:

No factual inaccuracies in the statement and no important information is missing
Mostly accurate
While the statement is largely accurate, it omits or exaggerates facts, or needs some clarification
Half accurate
Truths are interspersed with mistruths, or the speaker left out significant facts that render his/her remarks misleading in important respects
Mostly inaccurate
The major point or points made are untrue or misleading, even while some aspects of the claim may be accurate
The statement is false, or based on false underlying facts

Who:Terri Lynn Land for Senate
What:TV ad, “Roadblock”
The call:No Foul

Relevant text:

“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.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Rick (not the s...
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 9:50am
Who paid for this ad? I suspect the Koch Brothers (Americans for Prosperity - of the few). Their ads (lies are more appropriate) have been just awful and should be banned for lying all the time. We need to make sure everyone knows who is paying for these ads - really paying for them.
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 10:13am
I hope I don't have to answer for decisions I made 11 years ago. Hindsight is always 20/20, so looking back Gary Peters is probably wishing he had spent 30% MORE on those damn pencils. Politics in America!
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 10:56am
My question is, does the savings offered by a company based in a foreign Country, offset the negative economic impact of U.S. tax payer dollars leaving our Country, in addition to to the loss of jobs, and lost opportunity for people willing to start up U.S. based businesses to fill manufacturing needs of our Country?
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 3:17pm
Or, it could be said that "Land supports wasteful government spending. If it were up to her, she would rather spend Michigan taxpayer money in other states instead of cutting wasteful government spending." And my citation would be these above mentioned attack ad on Peters. In the grand scheme of things, however, we are talking about a difference of $66,000 out of a state budget that runs upwards of $36-$40 billion. How about we get to issues that really matter.
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 12:13pm
I know this might be a small thing, but could you please try to use the word "international" or "global" in your commentary. The use of the word "foreign" is derogatory and implies outsider, exclusion.
DJ Maverick
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 5:41pm
The ad could have said that a Chinese firm was the winning bidder in the open and fair bid process that all government organizations abide by to insure that shady sweetheart deals are not handed out by the politicians. If it was a bid process then there was no outsourcing to China, as whomever was the lowest qualified bidder was going to get the contract regardless of their location...The only way to change that is to not allow companies outside the US to bid. I wonder if Land would support only allowing US companies to bid?
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 7:49pm
I suppose if Peters had arbitrarily excluded the Chinese bid for being "non-US" then these Politico Ad Men would be grousing now about how Peters "Rigged the bidding". Well at least they cant get him on the "Spendthrift Liberal" claim, having saved the state a paltry $90 Grand. Heck the Koch brothers spend more than that when they break wind.
Fri, 08/15/2014 - 7:37pm
The alternate bidder for pencil may have been planning to buy the pencil in China from the same source, and pocketing the markup.