A "Blizzard" Of False And Misleading Claims In NRCC's Anti-Lassa Ad

October 29, 2010 3:33 pm ET

The National Republican Congressional Committee gets cute with an attack ad framed as a weather forecast, accusing State Senator Julie Lassa (D-WI) of a "blizzard of negative TV ads" and saying she "rained on us with higher taxes, reckless spending, and soaring unemployment." But the ad bases many of its claims on articles taken severely out of context. Moreover, blaming Lassa for Wisconsin's unemployment — which has actually improved since the Recovery Act took effect — is absurd given the global recession. In fact, Wisconsin's job market has outperformed the national average throughout the recession — and Lassa's time in state government.

NRCC: "Julie Lassa's Forecast"

It's a blizzard of negative TV ads from team Lassa. Forecast calls for more of the same. The press is calling the attacks "misleading," "ridiculous," "evidence... does not support the charge." In Madison, Lassa rained on us with higher taxes, reckless spending, and soaring unemployment. If Lassa joins Pelosi in Washington, 90 percent chance of our economy worsening. Brrr. That's cold. The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

NRCC's Out-Of-Context Quotes From The Press Are Themselves "Ridiculous" And "Misleading"

Ad With Claim FactCheck.Org Called "Ridiculous" Wasn't Lassa's. From FactCheck.org: "On top of that, the DCCC's ad tries to frighten seniors by saying that under a privatized system, they could have lost "nearly 40 percent of their retirement benefits" when the stock market collapsed in 2008. That's ridiculous, and could only have happened in a system where 100 percent of beneficiaries' money was given over to Wall Street. Recent proposals to let individuals have optional private Social Security accounts would let them invest only a portion of their payroll taxes, meaning the rest would have been perfectly safe, and one plan currently being discussed guarantees against any losses by investors." [FactCheck.org, 9/2/10, emphasis added]

  • Ad Explicitly Says It Was "Not Authorized by Any Candidate Or Candidate's Committee." The advertisement with the claim rated "ridiculous" by FactCheck.org includes text which reads: "Paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. www.DCCC.org. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising." [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, 8/30/10]
  • Lassa Wasn't Yet Democratic Nominee At The Time Of "Ridiculous" Ad. From FactCheck.org: "The Wisconsin race is for the House seat now held by Democratic Rep. Dave Obey, who's not seeking reelection. Duffy, a former district attorney and reality TV star, will likely face off against Democratic state Sen. Julie Lassa. The two are favored to win their respective primaries on Sept. 14." [FactCheck.org, 9/2/10]

NRCC Fails To Mention Article Scolding Lassa For "Misleading" Claim Also Endorsed Her As The "Best Choice" In Primary. From the Wausau Daily Herald:

State Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, is by far the 7th Congressional District Democrats' best choice going into the general election.

Never known as a partisan firebreather, in a year when Democrats nationwide will face a difficult political environment, Lassa can make a credible case that she will steer a sensible, moderate course. She has experience as a legislator and has unveiled a series of good-government proposals that she says will help to clean up Washington. For Democratic voters, Lassa is the clear choice.

However, if voters choose Lassa to run in the general election, we hope she will develop sharper, more policy-oriented suggestions on what she would do in Congress especially to address economic issues. At times her campaign has seemed to dodge difficult questions -- criticizing Congress for passing "bailouts," for example, without quite saying what economic policy she endorses for the future.

We believe the Lassa campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have been misleading in their attacks on likely Republican opponent Sean Duffy about Social Security. We are not convinced by the evidence -- a nonspecific statement of support for Rep. Paul Ryan's budget "roadmap" -- that Duffy advocates privatization of Social Security. In his interview with the Wausau Daily Herald Editorial Board, he explicitly rejected the notion. The Lassa campaign should drop this line of attack.

[Wausau Daily Herald, 9/9/10, emphasis added]

"Higher Taxes?" Sure, If You Want To Fault Lassa For Voting Against A Spending Cap That Would Have Cut Essential Services

Among the citations provided for the claim that Lassa "rained" on Wisconsin with "higher taxes, reckless spending and record unemployment" is a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from August 13, 2003, which discusses the Wisconsin State Senate's vote against a cap on local government spending.

In 2003 Lassa Voted Against A Spending Cap That Would Have Cut Services.  From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

MADISON, Wis.--The state Senate failed Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Doyle's veto of spending caps on local governments, prompting Republicans in the Assembly to immediately pass a new bill to cap December property tax bills.

In a dramatic 21-12 vote, the GOP-controlled Senate fell one vote short of getting the two-thirds majority needed to override Doyle's veto of the plan to put a three-year limit on taxes levied by municipalities, school districts, counties and technical colleges.

Doyle called the vote a "victory for Wisconsin's schools, Wisconsin's jobs and Wisconsin's future." The Democratic governor also said he is willing to call a special legislative session to deal with property taxes, which could go up $ 148 -- or 5.9 percent -- on a typical home in December.

Local elected officials -- who strongly opposed the limits -- said they had dodged a bullet, at least temporarily.


Democrats argued that the limits would rob local governments of local control. They also said the plan fails to recognize real-life costs.

"You can't freeze crime. You can't freeze all the needs in society," said Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison), who noted that snowplowing costs soar in harsh winters. "You can't freeze the weather. How can you freeze the equipment to take care of the weather?"

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/13/03, via Nexis, emphasis added]

"Reckless Spending?" Wisconsin State Budget A Bipartisan Compromise That Funded Education

Among the citations provided for the claim that Lassa "rained" on Wisconsin with "higher taxes, reckless spending and record unemployment" is the Wisconsin State Legislature's S.B. 40, Sequence #107. This corresponds to Wisconsin's 2007-2009 Biennial State budget, passed by the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate in October 2007.

2007 Wisconsin Budget Was A Bipartisan Compromise. From the Associated Press:

The nation's longest state budget stalemate moved a step closer to ending Tuesday evening when the Assembly passed a compromise plan. The Democratic-controlled Senate immediately took up the budget and was expected to vote later Tuesday night.

Smokers would be hit hard, but hospitals and oil companies would be spared from higher taxes that were removed under the agreement.

Republicans blocked a deal for months, arguing that taxpayers couldn't afford more than $1 billion in tax increases backed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and Democratic lawmakers.

Wisconsin's budget was due July 1 and 114 days later it remained the only state without a new spending plan. It was the second latest the state had gone without a budget in the past 40 years, nearly breaking the record of Oct. 28, 1971. Current tax and funding levels remained in place during the impasse.

Doyle will sign the budget, and release any vetoes, within days, his spokesman Matt Canter said.

The Assembly passed the budget 60-39, with 23 Republicans and 37 Democrats supporting it. Voting against it were 29 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

"We did find middle ground and we are able to pass a budget that puts Wisconsin families first," said Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem.

No one may be happier there is a deal than Democratic Rep. Tom Nelson who had been staging a one-man sit-in since Thursday. Sleeping on an air mattress at his desk in the Assembly chamber, Nelson vowed to wage the lonely fight until the budget passes the Senate.

Under a deal reached Friday, and voted on Tuesday, Doyle and Democrats agreed to drop a 0.8 percent new tax on hospitals and a 2.5 percent oil company tax. Democrats also agreed to a $1 per-pack cigarette tax increase instead of the $1.25 originally proposed.

[Associated Press, 10/24/07, via Nexis, emphasis added]

"Reckless Spending" In Wisconsin Budget Allowed Low-Income Students To Attend College. From the Associated Press:

Thousands of University of Wisconsin students on a waiting list for the state's premier financial aid program should get money soon now that the long-overdue state budget has been passed, officials said Wednesday.


The action came one day after the Legislature approved a new two-year budget that was supposed to take effect July 1. The budget pumps $26 million more into the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant program over two years. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle pushed for that level of aid and is expected to sign the budget on Friday.

The program awards need-based grants to students of up to $2,730 this school year but ran out of money in late July after officials promised $39 million to 22,400 students.

Students who applied after that were put on the waiting list because Republicans who control the Assembly were pushing to stop funding at that amount. In the budget compromise, lawmakers agreed to the higher levels of aid sought by Democrats.

Some of the students decided not to attend school this semester; others had to work extra hours or take out additional loans. They were among those affected the most by the Legislature's budget stalemate and became a sad symbol of the inaction at the Capitol.

[Associated Press, 10/24/07, via Nexis]

"Soaring Unemployment?" Is The NRCC Blaming State Senator Lassa For A Global Recession?

The Trajectory Of Wisconsin's Unemployment Rate Mirrored The National Unemployment Rate.

Graph of Wisconsin's unemployment rate from 2000 to 2010:

WI Unemployment Rate

 [Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 10/27/10]

Graph of the United States' nationwide unemployment rate from 2000 to 2010:

US Unemployment Rate

[Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 10/27/10]

Wisconsin's Unemployment Rate Has Decreased Since July 2009. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' data states that Wisconsin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 8.9 percent to 7.8 percent between July 2009 and September 2010. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 10/27/10]

  • President Obama's Policies Did Not Affect The Economy Until July 2009. According to economist Robert J. Shapiro: "From December 2007 to July 2009 - the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy - private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs." [Sonecon.com, 8/10/10]

Wisconsin Unemployment Rate Consistently A Full Percentage Point — Or More — Below National Rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009, while Wisconsin's unemployment rate never even reached 9 percent, maxing at 8.9 percent in mid 2009. Additionally, the September 2010 national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, nearly two percentage points over Wisconsin's September 2010 rate of 7.8 percent. [Wisconsin: Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 10/27/10; National: Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 10/27/10]

"90 Percent Chance" The Economy Will Worsen? Not Since The Recovery Act Took Effect

The Economy Shed Almost 8 Million Jobs Under Republican Policies Before The Recovery Act Could Affect The Economy. According to economist Robert J. Shapiro:

From December 2007 to July 2009 - the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy - private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs. Employment continued to fall, however, for the next six months, reaching a low of 107,107,000 jobs in December of 2009. So, out of 8,467,000 private sector jobs lost in this dismal cycle, 7,796,000 of those jobs or 92 percent were lost on the Republicans' watch or under the sway of their policies. Some 671,000 additional jobs were lost as the stimulus and other moves by the administration kicked in, but 630,000 jobs then came back in the following six months. The tally, to date: Mr. Obama can be held accountable for the net loss of 41,000 jobs (671,000 - 630,000), while the Republicans should be held responsible for the net losses of 7,796,000 jobs. [Sonecon.com, 8/10/10, emphasis added]

Based on Shapiro's research, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein created the following chart showing net job losses before and after the Recovery Act was enacted:


[Washington Post8/12/10]

CBO: The Recovery Act Created Jobs, Lowered Unemployment, And Boosted GDP. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, through the second quarter of 2010, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

  • Raised the level of real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent,
  • Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points,
  • Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million, and
  • Increased the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2.0 million to 4.8 million compared with what those amounts would have been otherwise.

[CBO, 8/24/10]

Reuters: The Recovery Act May Have "Prevented The Sluggish Economy From Contracting" Between April And June. According to Reuters

The massive U.S. stimulus package put millions of people to work and boosted national output by hundreds of billions of dollars in the second quarter, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.

CBO's latest estimate indicates that the stimulus effort, which remains a political hot potato ahead of the November congressional elections, may have prevented the sluggish U.S. economy from contracting between April and June.

CBO said President Barack Obama's stimulus boosted real GDP in the quarter by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent, adding at least $200 billion in economic activity. [Reuters via ABC News, 8/24/10]

Job Statistics Trend Shows Recovery Act Is Working. Below is a graph prepared by the Speaker's office showing net private sector job gains or losses per month since December 2007.

Private Sector Employment

[Bureau of Labor Statistics via The Gavel, 10/8/10]

Princeton, Moody's Economists Say "Highly Effective" Government Response To Crisis Saved 8.5 Million Jobs. According to the New York Times: "Like a mantra, officials from both the Bush and Obama administrations have trumpeted how the government's sweeping interventions to prop up the economy since 2008 helped avert a second Depression. Now, two leading economists wielding complex quantitative models say that assertion can be empirically proved. In a new paper, the economists argue that without the Wall Street bailout, the bank stress tests, the emergency lending and asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, and the Obama administration's fiscal stimulus program, the nation's gross domestic product would be about 6.5 percent lower this year. In addition, there would be about 8.5 million fewer jobs, on top of the more than 8 million already lost; and the economy would be experiencing deflation, instead of low inflation. The paper, by Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton professor and former vice chairman of the Fed, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, represents a first stab at comprehensively estimating the effects of the economic policy responses of the last few years. 'While the effectiveness of any individual element certainly can be debated, there is little doubt that in total, the policy response was highly effective,' they write." [New York Times7/27/10, emphasis added]