Election 2016

8 of the Biggest Election Lies This Year

With only a few days left, the crazy attacks are growing.

Republican strategist Karl Rove has attacked Democrats for wanting to cut Social Security.
Photo Credit: Image by Shutterstock, Copyright (c) Dennis Cox

Only in the last weeks of a federal midterm election are voters being told that right-wingers are really feminists, Democrats want to cut Social Security benefits, a pro-gun Democrat wants to take your guns away, and Republicans have had enough with billionaires spending big money in political races.

These are just a few leading examples from the “Don’t Be Fooled” department, where Republicans—and a few Democrats—are making some absurd claims in an effort to provoke people to stop thinking and vote their prejudices and fears.

Crazy claims usually surface at the end of elections, when the press isn’t able to catch them all, and the 2014 midterms are no exception. That’s especially true in non-presidential elections, where there aren’t national themes captivating the public, but far more locally focused contests.

What follows are eight claims from 2014’s “Oh really?” department.

1. Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is no feminist. Just putting a woman on the screen in a television ad does not make a candidate pro-woman. Neither does having that woman, in this case, Wisconsin’s Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, lie about supporting “pay equity” for women, when their administration “quietly repealed the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act,” as Salon’s Katie McDonnough noted. That former law made it easier for women to sue for equal pay, which Walker’s Republican allies did not want to see stay on the books.  

2. Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner is no moderate. Just because an interest group says so does not make it true. In this case, the so-called No Labels group, which claims to endorse bipartisan problem solvers, is backing Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Cory Gardner. The endorsement is ridiculous, as Congressman Gardner has strongly opposed abortion rights and voted for 2013’s federal government shutdown. He is an extremist elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, who actually is now getting flack from right-wingers who previously backed him and say he has jumped ship.

3. Republicans are not the party defending Social Security. But Karl Rove wants you to believe otherwise, and according to the Washington Post, is behind ads accusing two Democratic senators of wanting to cut benefits. “Cutting federal health and retirement spending has long been at the top of the GOP agenda,” the Post’s report correctly notes. “But with Republicans in striking distance of winning the Senate, they are suddenly blasting the idea of trimming Social Security.” The Rove ads have run against North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Arkansas’ Mark Pryor, both in tight races. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also is now saying he never wanted to privatize Social Security, another lie. You can be sure that if the GOP wins a congressional majority this fall it will put forth reforms decreasing future retirement benefits, not expanding them.

4. Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn didn't fund terrorists.This truly absurd claim comes from Georgia, where Nunn, the daughter of a famous U.S. senator, is in a tight race against a Republican businessman for the U.S. Senate. Nunn had worked for Points of Light, a charity created to promote volunteerism, which distributed some money to Islamic groups. Politifact.com deconstructed the attack from Republican David Perdue’s TV ad, calling it one of the year’s biggest fibs.

5. No captured ISIS terrorists or 3,000 murders on the border.California Republican congressman Duncan Hunter made the first claim. Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general running for governor, made the second claim. Both are false, Politifact reported, even if that’s what they both told Fox News. In Hunter’s case, federal and state law enforcement agency say he made it up. Abbott’s figures, meanwhile, refer to homicide arrests, not convictions, which any lawyer knows is a very big distinction. But these candidates are happy to peddle fear.

6. Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu did not take away gun rights.But she’s another Democratic senator in a tight race and the National Rifle Association apparently thinks it’s worth betting against her, even though she has voted many times with them to oppose gun restrictions. Nonetheless, the NRA said her votes for background checks for gun show purchases, and to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, justified a TV ad saying that Landrieu “voted to take away your gun rights.” If re-elected, maybe she’ll start backing gun controls.     

7. Florida Republican Rick Scott didn’t close 30 abortion clinics. There are plenty of reasons for Democrats to vote against Florida’s incumbent Tea Party Republican governor without making some up. But Lois Frankel, a Democratic congresswoman, sent out a fundraising letter accusing Scott of closing the 30 clinics. It didn’t happen, Politifact said. There is another anti-choice governor named Rick—Texas Republican Rick Perry—who has been trying to close abortion clinics in that state, but that’s a different Rick.   

8. Republicans now decrying big political spending by billionaires. This has to be the biggest lie of all, as it includes complaints from the Darth Vader of campaign finance deregulation himself, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, who has opposed campaign finance reforms for decades. But now, McConnell apparently doesn’t like that his opponent, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has lined up Warren Buffett for a fundraiser. Needless to say, he’s not complaining about last-minute spending by anonymous groups on his behalf that are paying for every seventh TV spot in the state. Of course, Republicans also have not liked ads from California billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action super PAC that opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline because of global climate change.

The bottom line from these and other examples is that the closing messages in many of the 2014 elections are filled with lies intended to provoke local biases and prejudices. While voters shouldn’t be surprised, they also shouldn’t be fooled. 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

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