Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - October 10, 2010

October 11, 2010 9:54 am ET

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Illinois senate candidates Mark Kirk (R) and Alexi Giannoulias (D) debated economic policy and traded personal barbs. At one point Kirk described himself as "a fiscal hawk" who "foreswore earmarks," but the truth isn't so pretty: Kirk requested over $200 million in earmarks in from 2007 to 2008, including millions for organizations that donated to his campaign. Later, Kirk argued that the Recovery Act "largely failed," and implied that small businesses weren't helped by the bill. In fact, the Recovery Act's mixture of tax relief for businesses and investments in industry and infrastructure helped us avoid another Great Depression and turned the economy around. Meanwhile, on Face the Nation, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie misled CBS viewers about the balance of political power in the world of soft-money electioneering groups. In reality, 2008 saw conservative and liberal groups each spend about $200 million — far from Gillespie's imagined gap between the parties. Then, Gillespie proved he just isn't good at math when he exaggerated the value of stimulus payments to dead people by 200,000%.

Meet the Press

CLAIM: Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) Implied He Is Staunchly Anti-Earmark

Rep. MARK KIRK (R-IL): No, I've become very much of a fiscal hawk here. I foreswore earmarks for my own congressional district. We could save $66 billion right there.

FACT: Mark Kirk — For Earmarks Before He Was Against Them

2008: Kirk Said He Wanted A "Moratorium" On Earmarks. According to Roll Call: "One appropriator, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), is holding a campaign event shortly before the deadline, but there is no chance he'll be collecting cash for earmarks. 'I am backing a moratorium and I won't be requesting any earmarks,' Kirk said. 'I just hope others follow suit.'" [Roll Call, 3/3/08 via Nexis]

2008: Kirk Requested Almost $75 Million In Earmarks. According to LegiStorm, Rep. Kirk requested $74,766,000 in earmarks during Fiscal Year 2008. [LegiStorm.com, accessed 10/10/10]

2007: Kirk Requested Over $140 Million In Earmarks. According to The Swamp, a project of the Chicago Tribune, Rep. Kirk requested 28 earmarks totaling $140,803,000 in Fiscal Year 2007. The requests included:

  • $500,000 for the "Internation Center on Deafness and the Arts."
  • $10 million for "Relieving Gridlock in the Northwest Suburbs."
  • $6 million for "Military Maxillofacial Wound and Dental Research."
  • $1.2 million for the "Millenium Seed Bank."
  • $6 million for an "Anti-radiation Guided Missile Derivative Program."

[SwampPolitics.com, 6/21/07, emphasis added]

FACT: Mark Kirk Obtained Millions In Earmarks For Campaign Contributors

Associated Press: Kirk Sponsored At Least $5 Million In Earmarks For Groups That Gave $63,000 To His Campaign. According to the Associated Press: "As Mark Kirk campaigns for the Senate seat once held by President Obama, the Republican congressman casts himself as a scourge of the pork-barrel, special-interest congressional spending known as 'earmarks.' It wasn't always that way... When members of Congress debated a 2008 spending bill, Kirk landed more than $1.1 million for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Planetarium board members had given more than $23,000 to Kirk's congressional campaigns from 2000 to 2008. Kirk attached $119,000 in spending for a Christian outreach program to the 2008 spending bill. David Ross, the president of the board of directors of the Christian Outreach of Lutherans, the group that benefited from the earmark, gave $4,600 to Kirk between 2007 and 2008. Overall, Kirk took in more than $63,000 from 2000 to 2008 from campaign donors with ties to nearly $5 million in earmarks, an Associated Press review of his campaign finance reports and his earmarks found. After securing $30 million in earmarks in the 2008 spending bill, a figure that put him in the middle of the pack among his fellow members of Congress, Kirk did not ask for any in the 2009 spending bill." [Associated Press, 12/10/09 via FoxNews.com, emphasis added]

Kirk Requested $75 Million Earmark For Northrop Grumman. According to the Chicago Tribune: "Kirk on Wednesday disclosed requests including $75 million (made in conjunction with Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean) for Northrop Grumman to build defenses for troop-carrying civilian aircraft against surface-to-air missiles." [Chicago Tribune, 6/21/07, parentheses original]

  • Northrop Grumman Has Given Kirk At Least $35,750 Since 1989. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Mark Kirk has accepted at least $35,750 from PACs and individuals connected to Northrop Grumman since 1989. [Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 10/10/10]

CLAIM: Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) Falsely Claimed "The Stimulus Has Largely Failed" To Help Businesses

Rep. MARK KIRK (R-IL): First of all, we recognize that the stimulus has largely failed. A very small part of it even went to infrastructure development projects. It didn't answer the question, what happens when all the borrowed money runs out? Secondly, this Congress has been very, very viciously anti-business. New taxes, new regulation. We need uh, senators and congressmen that will back a pro-growth agenda. For example, my small business bill of rights — ten new policies to help out the number one employers in Illinois and the United States, small business. Half of all the jobs, 80% of the job losses in the great recession. They can't afford a Washington lobbyist to go find stimulus money, or a Washington lawyer to wade through the latest 1000 page bill that Congressional leaders haven't even read.

FACT: Since The Recovery Act Was Enacted And Began To Take Effect, The Economy Has Added Millions Of Jobs

The Economy Shed Almost 8 Million Jobs Under Republican Policies Before The Recovery Act Was Passed.  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 Increased Employment By As Much As 3.3 Million.  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.

[Bureau of Labor Statistics via The Gavel, 8/6/10]

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]

FACT: The Recovery Act Included Roughly $288 Billion In Tax Relief

PolitiFact: "Nearly A Third" Of Recovery Act Is "Tax Breaks To Individuals And Businesses." According to PolitiFact.com: "Nearly a third of the cost of the stimulus, $288 billion, comes via tax breaks to individuals and businesses. The tax cuts include a refundable credit of up to $400 per individual and $800 for married couples; a temporary increase of the earned income tax credit for disadvantaged families; and an extension of a program that allows businesses to recover the costs of capital expenditures faster than usual. The tax cuts aren't so much spending as money the government won't get -- so it can stay in the economy. Of that $288 billion, the stimulus has resulted in $119 billion worth of tax breaks so far." [PolitiFact.com, 2/17/10]

CLAIM: Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) Repeated The Dishonest Claim That The Affordable Care Act Included "$500 Billion In Cuts For Seniors...On Medicare"

Rep. MARK KIRK (R-IL): Let's look at the health care bill we passed. $500 billion in cuts for seniors who depend on Medicare.

FACT: Health Care Reform Doesn't Cut Medicare Benefits, But It Does Strengthen The Program

FactCheck.org: "None Of The 'Savings' Or 'Cuts' (Whichever You Prefer) Come From Reducing Current Or Future Benefit Levels For Seniors." According to FactCheck.org, "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." [FactCheck.org, accessed 9/9/09]

Health Care Reform "Will Keep Paying Medical Bills For Seniors."  According to PoliFact.com: "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." [PoliFact.com, 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." [CBO.gov, 10/7/09]

Changes To Medicare Advantage Come With Extra Benefits For All Medicare Enrollees.  FactCheck.org 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." [FactCheck.org, 12/2/09, emphasis added]

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.

Face the Nation

CLAIM: Ed Gillespie Falsely Claimed Outside Spending In 2008 Election Heavily Favored Democrats

ED GILLESPIE: Karl Rove and I don't run American Crossroads...We're fully supportive of it. I've helped to raise money for it. I encouraged it to come together because I think we need something like that on the conservative side, because there's so much money on the liberal side. Y'know, $400 million was spent in 2008 to help elect Barack Obama. We didn't hear Mr. Axelrod or others complaining about that, much of that money was undisclosed. And this year there are organizations on the right who are playing by the same rules.

FACT: Liberal Groups Dominated 527 Spending, Conservative Groups Dominated 501(c ) Spending, And Each Side Got About $200 Million In Outside Spending

Campaign Finance Institute Report: Liberal And Conservative Groups Spent Comparable Amounts In 2008. In a report titled "Soft Money Spending By 501(c) Nonprofits Tripled In 2008 Election," the Campaign Finance Institute wrote: "If Democratic-oriented 527s dominated the soft money system in 2004, the rise of the 501(c)s in 2008 has evened the partisan balance. Democratic-leaning 527s, largely financed by labor unions and wealthy individuals, held more than a 2-1 advantage over Republican-oriented ones. But among 501(c)s, Republican-inclined groups - mainly backed by businesses and wealthy individuals -- maintained the same edge over their pro- Democratic rivals." ["Soft Money Spending By 501(c) Nonprofits Tripled In 2008 Election," Campaign Finance Institute, 2/25/09 via Moneyline.CQ.com]

Republican-Leaning 501(c) Groups Outspent Democratic-Leaning Ones By Two-To-One Margin In 2008. In a report titled "Soft Money Spending By 501(c) Nonprofits Tripled In 2008 Election," the Campaign Finance Institute wrote: "Breaking 501(c)\ campaign spending down by groups' partisan orientations, Republican leaning groups spent $142 million and Democratic ones $54 million, a more than 2-1 Republican advantage." ["Soft Money Spending By 501(c) Nonprofits Tripled In 2008 Election," Campaign Finance Institute, 2/25/09 via Moneyline.CQ.com]

Democratic-Leaning 527 Groups Outspent Republican-Leaning Ones By Two-To-One Margin In 2008. In a report titled "Soft Money Spending By 501(c) Nonprofits Tripled In 2008 Election," the Campaign Finance Institute wrote: "Democratic-oriented groups spent $143 million and Republican-oriented ones $56 million. This was the mirror image, almost to the dollar, of 501(c) spending which favored Republicans." ["Soft Money Spending By 501(c) Nonprofits Tripled In 2008 Election," Campaign Finance Institute, 2/25/09  via Moneyline.CQ.com]

CLAIM: Ed Gillespie Overstated Cost Of Stimulus Payments To Dead People By 200,000%

ED GILLESPIE: We just saw this week alone, they announced that there was a, uh, the uh, debt is going up $1.3 trillion, by the way partly because $18 billion of stimulus money went to 72,000 dead people.

FACT: It Was $18 Million (Not Billion) Out Of $13 Billion Dispersed To Social Security Recipients

Associated Press: 99.8 Percent Of The 52 MILLION Payments Were Accurate. According to the Associated Press: "In all, the $250 payments were sent to about 52 million people who receive either Social Security or Supplemental Security Income, at a cost of about $13 billion. Other federal retirees also received the payments, but they were not part of the inspector general's review. Social Security spokesman Mark Lassiter said, "Inaccurate payments are unacceptable. Social Security's Recovery Act payments were 99.8 percent accurate and we quickly collected the majority of the inaccurate payments. Each year we make payments to a small number of deceased recipients usually because we have not yet received reports of their deaths." [Associated Press, 10/7/10 via Huffington Post]

Associated Press: Over Half The $18 Million Sent To Deceased People Was Returned To The Government. According to the Associated Press: "The payments, which were part of last year's massive economic recovery package, were meant to increase consumer spending to help stimulate the economy. But about $18 million went to nearly 72,000 people who were dead, according to the report by the Social Security Administration's inspector general. The report estimates that a little more than half of those payments were returned." [Associated Press, 10/7/10 via Huffington Post]