American Action Network Takes Dishonesty To New Heights In West Virginia Ad

October 19, 2010 4:02 pm ET

In a new ad attacking House hopeful Mike Oliverio (D-WV), Norm Coleman's American Action Network trades the truth for "truthiness." Not content to repeat the "$500 billion in Medicare cuts" lie, AAN pretends Oliverio is a Pelosi loyalist when in fact Oliverio said in April that he didn't particularly want to vote for Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker. Yet AAN's ad warps a Politico article to suggest Oliverio would follow Pelosi's orders. AAN is correct that Oliverio voted to raise legislators' pay in 2008, but they don't tell you that West Virginia's lawmakers hadn't had a raise since 1994, and after the raise in question they were only making $20,000 a year.

American Action Network: Mike Oliverio Attack Ad

[On-Screen Text:] If Nancy Pelosi gave an order...would you follow it? Mike Oliverio would. Oliverio says he would support Pelosi in Washington. If he was told to. After all, Oliverio voted himself a 33% pay raise. Oliverio voted for higher taxes. Even on gas. And Oliverio won't repeal Obama's $500 billion Medicare cuts. So what will Mike Oliverio do in Washington? Whatever Nancy Pelosi tells him to. [Voice:] American Action Network is responsible for the content of this advertising.

AAN Willfully Distorts Oliverio's Comments On Speaker Pelosi

AAN's ad cites a Politico article from 5/27/10 to support its claim that Oliverio "would support Pelosi in Washington. If he was told to." That is a serious distortion of the Politico piece, and it ignores previous reporting about conservative Democrat Oliverio's reluctance to support Pelosi.

Politico Article Cited By AAN Points Out That Oliverio "Hoped He Could Support A 'Better Candidate' For Speaker." According to Politico's May 27, 2010 article on Oliverio: "The campaign manager for West Virginia state Sen. Mike Oliverio, the conservative Democrat who ousted Rep. Alan Mollohan in a primary earlier this month, sought to tamp down concern this week about comments Oliverio made last month hinting at opposition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Oliverio told the Wheeling News-Register in late April that he hoped he could support a 'better candidate' for speaker. Now, while he's not offering a strong endorsement of Pelosi, Oliverio's top aide indicated that the upstart candidate won't seek to rock the boat in a leadership race if he's elected to Congress. 'He will support whomever Democrats support for speaker,' campaign manager Curtis Wilkerson said, explaining that Oliverio would back the consensus choice of the Democratic Caucus. Wilkerson added that Oliverio still disagrees with Pelosi on key issues 'such as cap and trade.'" [Politico, 5/27/10; emphasis added]

Oliverio: "Hopefully, There Will Be A Better Candidate Than Nancy Pelosi." From the Wheeling News-Register: "'I will vote for the candidate in the best interest of West Virginia,' Oliverio said following the event. 'Hopefully, there will be a better candidate than Nancy Pelosi.'" [Wheeling News-Register, 4/29/10]

AAN Ignores Context: WV Lawmakers Raised Their Salary To $20,000...

Mike Oliverio Has Served In West Virginia Legislature Since 1992. According to Oliverio's biography page on his campaign website, "In 1992, he was elected to West Virginia's House of Delegates, receiving more votes than any delegate in the history of Monongalia County. Mike was elected to the State Senate in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006. He became the first Senator to win re-election in his district in twenty years! He now serves as chairman of the Labor Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Judiciary Committee." [, accessed 10/19/10]

Pay Raise Was The First For West Virginia Legislators Since 1994. According to the Charleston Gazette: "After 40 minutes of debate Friday, members of the state Senate voted 20-13 to grant themselves and their colleagues in the House of Delegates their first pay increase since 1994." [Charleston Gazette, 3/1/08 via Nexis]

Bill Increased Legislators' Salaries To $20,000 Per Year And Increased Per Diem For Expenses. According to the Charleston Gazette: "All lawmakers' annual salaries will increase from $15,000 to $20,000, while their daily payment for expenses will increase from $115 to $131. The House speaker and Senate president stand to benefit most from the legislation. Currently, they are paid an additional $50 daily for up to 80 days each year. To collect the extra pay, existing law says they must work 'in their office' at the Capitol. Next year, their extra pay will increase to $150 daily, the 80-day limit will be gone, and they can collect the pay while working anywhere - including, apparently, from home. Each house's majority and minority leaders, as well as Finance and Judiciary committee leaders' extra daily pay would go from $25 to $50. The House speaker and Senate president can choose two additional members to receive the same compensation. Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, noted that lawmakers have granted pay increases to state employees, as well as to state and county elected officials in recent years." [Charleston Gazette, 3/1/08 via Nexis]

...To Make Sure "People From All Walks Of Life" Can Serve In Government

West Virginia House Majority Leader: Without Adequate Pay For Lawmakers, "Only The Rich Could Serve In The Legislature." According to the Charleston Gazette: "House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, noted lawmakers had not received a pay increase since 1994, [sic] He said he was proud of the membership for standing up to public pressure. 'If we don't do this, we'll end with a Legislature of the super-wealthy, rather than a Legislature made up of people from all walks of life,' Thompson said after the vote. 'It would be unfortunate if only the rich could serve in the Legislature.'" [Charleston Gazette, 2/27/08 via Nexis]

17-Year-Old Gas Tax Vote Financed Highway Construction, Bridge Safety Projects

AAN's ad cites a vote from March 1993 on House Bill 2303, which became law in April 1993.

House Bill 2303 Increased Gas Tax By Five Cents Per Gallon From 1993 To 2001. West Virginia House Bill 2303 reads, in part: "Provided, That beginning the first day of May, one thousand nine hundred ninety-three, the tax levied by this article shall be twenty and one-half cents per gallon: Provided, however, That on and after the first day of August, two thousand one, the tax levied by this article shall be fifteen and one-half cents per gallon." [H.B. 2303, accessed 10/18/10 via Legis.State.WV.US]

House Bill 2303 Used Gas Tax Revenue To Match Federal Funding For Bridge Safety, Highway Upkeep Projects. West Virginia House Bill 2303 reads, in part:

a)The Legislature finds:

(1) That the "Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991" provides a window of opportunity for highway and bridge construction in the state of West Virginia;
(2) That the "Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991" provides for one billion dollars of regular federal highway and bridge funding over the effective period of the legislation;
(3) That the "Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991" additionally authorizes the necessary funding to complete the Appalachian highway corridor system in the state of West Virginia;
(4) That the "Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991" provides authorization for additional funding for other specifically identified highway corridors and projects throughout the state of West Virginia;
(5) That the anticipated level of total funding resulting from the passage of the "Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991", if matched by sufficient state funds, would reach approximately six billion dollars through the year two thousand one;
(6) That this program level would be made possible by a five cent increase in the rate of tax on gasoline and special fuels;
(7) That such a program level would enable a continued aggressive highway paving, bridge safety and highway maintenance program; and
(8) That the highways constructed and improvements to the existing transportation system in the state of West Virginia resulting from this highway construction program would be a substantial stimulus to economic development in this state. [H.B. 2303, accessed 10/18/10 via Legis.State.WV.US; emphasis added]

  • The Bill Also Forced WV Highway Department To Use Funds More Efficiently. West Virginia House Bill 2303 reads, in part:

(c) The following efficiency initiatives shall be implemented by the division of highways:

(1) Reduction in the division's passenger vehicle fleet by one hundred seventy vehicles; and
(2) Restriction on the use and number of passenger vehicles utilized for twenty-four hour duty so as to cause a reduction in the total cost of operation of the twenty-four hour duty vehicle fleet by fifty percent.
(d) The amount of the tax collected attributable to the five cent increase in the tax collected under the provisions of this article effective the first day of May, one thousand nine hundred ninety-three, shall be deposited in a special account in the state treasury known as the "Federal Aid Highway Matching Fund" and shall only be used to match federal moneys available for highway purposes as authorized by Title 23 and Title 40 or other provisions of the United States Code: Provided, That the "Federal Aid Highway Matching Fund" shall be appropriated by line item by the Legislature. [H.B. 2303, accessed 10/18/10 via Legis.State.WV.US]

2005 Tax Increases On Natural Resource Production Were Intended To Fix Shortfall In State Pension Fund

AAN's ad references a January 2005 vote on Senate Bill 1004.

Senate Bill 1004 Increased Coal, Timber And Other Natural Resource Production Taxes To Close Shortfall In Pension Funding. West Virginia Senate Bill 1004 reads, in part: "a) Legislative intent. -- It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this article to impose new, additional privilege taxes on severing or producing natural resources in this state and for the net proceeds from collection of the new taxes to be dedicated to paying down the unfunded liability in the workers' compensation fund, or paying debt service on bonds sold to raise funds to pay down the unfunded liability in the workers' compensation fund, or for any combination of these two purposes." [S.B. 1004, accessed 10/18/10 via Legis.State.WV.US]

Senate Bill 1004: Failure To Finance Pension Fund Shortfall Would Hinder Economic Growth. West Virginia Senate Bill 1004 reads, in part:

(b) Findings. -- The Legislature finds and declares that:

(1) The unfunded liability in the state workers' compensation program exceeds three billion dollars;
(2) Until a fiscally responsible plan for paying this unfunded liability is provided by the Legislature, the condition of the workers' compensation fund will continue to negatively affect economic development in this state;
(3) Until a fiscally responsible plan for paying this unfunded liability is provided by the Legislature, the Legislature will not be able to privatize workers' compensation;
(4) Until a fiscally responsible plan for paying this unfunded liability is provided, the Legislature will need to annually appropriate dollars from the general revenue fund of the state to pay down this unfunded liability and to cover the annual shortfall between funds available to pay workers' compensation benefits to injured workers and premiums collected by the workers' compensation fund from employers;
(5) In accordance with the constitution of this state and decisions of the West Virginia supreme court of appeals, the Legislature may enact a new tax and dedicate the net collections of the tax to pay down this unfunded liability or to pay debt service on bonds sold by the state to raise funds to pay down this unfunded liability. [S.B. 1004, accessed 10/18/10 via Legis.State.WV.US]

Yes, AAN, "Oliverio Won't Repeal Obama's $500 Billion Medicare Cuts" — BECAUSE THEY DON'T EXIST

The Affordable Care Act Strengthens Medicare Without Cutting Benefits "None Of The 'Savings' Or 'Cuts' (Whichever You Prefer) Come From Reducing Current Or Future Benefit Levels For Seniors." According to, "The House bill would trim projected increases in payments for hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and others, including home health care providers and suppliers of motor-driven wheelchairs. But it also proposes what CBO estimates is a $245 billion increase in spending for doctors, by canceling a scheduled 21 percent cut in physician payments. None of the 'savings' or 'cuts' (whichever you prefer) come from reducing current or future benefit levels for seniors." [, accessed 9/9/09]

Changes To Medicare Advantage Come With Extra Benefits For All Medicare Enrollees. reported: "The CBO has estimated that the move would change the value of the extra benefits Medicare Advantage participants get, but they would not receive fewer benefits than the rest of seniors who aren't on the Advantage plans. The bill does add some extras for Medicare beneficiaries, eliminating copays and deductibles for preventive services, for example." [, 12/2/09; emphasis added]

Health Care Reform "Will Keep Paying Medical Bills For Seniors."  According to "The government-run Medicare program will keep paying medical bills for seniors, but it will begin implementing cost controls on health care providers, mostly through penalties and incentives. The legislation would reduce payments for hospital-acquired infections or preventable hospital admissions. For Medicare Advantage, the federal government intends to reduce extra payments, taking away subsidies to private insurance companies. Insurers will likely cut benefits in order to not lose profits. The bill does not address the 'doctor's fix,' an expected proposal that Congress usually passes to prevent doctors' Medicare payments from severe cuts." [, 3/18/10; emphasis in original]

CBO: Cost Changes To Medicare Made From Savings. According to the CBO: "Changes to the Medicare program and changes to Medicaid and CHIP other than those associated directly with expanded insurance coverage:  Savings from those provisions are estimated to total $93 billion in 2019, and CBO projects that, in combination, they will increase by 10 percent to 15 percent per year in the next decade." [, 10/7/09]

Health Care Reform Fills The "Doughnut Hole."  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: "In 2010, Part D enrollees with any spending in the coverage gap will receive a $250 rebate. Beginning in 2011, enrollees with spending in the coverage gap will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs, provided by the pharmaceutical industry. The law phases in Medicare coverage in the gap for generic drugs beginning in 2011, and for brand-name drugs beginning in 2013. By 2020, Part D enrollees will be responsible for 25 percent of the cost of both brands and generics in the gap, down from 100 percent in 2010." [Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 8/25/10]

Health Care Reform Improves Medicare's Coverage Of Preventative Benefits.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: "Beginning in 2011, no coinsurance or deductibles will be charged in traditional Medicare for preventive services that are rated A or B by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Medicare will cover a free annual comprehensive wellness visit and personalized prevention plan." [Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 8/25/10]

Click HERE for details on the trillions of dollars Republicans have voted to cut from Medicare.