Will Mary Landrieu Condemn False Super PAC Ad Running On Her Behalf?

Well that didn’t take long. The day after a Super PAC supporting Mary Landrieu launched a $200,000 ad buy in Louisiana, the Washington Post Fact Checker is giving the spot a distinguished rating of Four Pinocchios. It’s clear that after a Democratic poll found Landrieu down 9 points<http://buildkxlnow.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Louisiana-Topline-Tables.pdf> among those most likely to vote she and her Washington allies are panicked, but will Landrieu ask Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC to take this blatantly false ad off the air?

·         The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) Appears To Be The Worst Off.” “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) appears to be the worst off. She trails Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) by 46 percent to 42 percent among those likeliest to vote, a difference that is inside the margin of error.” (Sean Sullivan, “Dem Polls Show Landrieu, Hagan, Pryor In Tight Races Against Republicans,” The Washington Post<http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/03/13/dem-polls-show-landrieu-hagan-pryor-in-tight-races-against-republicans/>, 3/14/14)

NOTE: Oddly, this ad cites virtually no sources, except for the claim that the Kochs are spending millions on negative ads … Upon examination, this claim crumbles into dust. The ad not only mischaracterizes an ordinary tax deduction as a special “tax cut” but then it falsely asserts that “protecting” this tax break is part of the Koch agenda. It turns out this claim is based on a tenuous link to an organization that never even took a position on the legislation in question. We often have been critical of AFP ads and we realize Democrats want to fight back against an onslaught of attacks. But if you want to join a gun fight, don’t fire blanks. Four Pinocchios.

Democrats claim the Koch Brothers want to ‘protect tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas’
Washington Post
Fact Checker
Glenn Kessler
March 14, 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2014/03/14/democrats-claim-the-koch-brothers-want-to-protect-tax-cuts-for-companies-that-ship-our-jobs-overseas/

“Out of state billionaires spending millions to rig the system and elect Bill Cassidy. Their goal: Another politician bought and paid for. Their agenda: Protect tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas. Cut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it. They even tried to kill relief for hurricane victims. Cassidy’s billion dollar backers: They’ve got a plan for him. It’s not good for Louisiana.”

–voiceover for new ad sponsored by the Senate Majority PAC, attacking GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy

The pro-GOP group Americans for Prosperity has relentlessly attacked<http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2013/11/22/did-mary-landrieu-cast-the-deciding-vote-for-obamacare/> Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), so the pro-Democratic group Senate Majority PAC has made AFP’s main backers, the Koch Brothers, the subject of a new attack ad. This is all part of a larger Democratic strategy<http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/03/13/morning-plum-why-dems-are-tying-republicans-to-the-koch-brothers/> of tying GOP candidates to the conservative billionaires, as witnessed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s near-daily attacks on them.

A number of the claims in the ad we have covered before, such as the hyperbolic charge<http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/4-pinocchios-for-the-latest-mediscare-ad/2013/06/27/d1d218ec-df6f-11e2-963a-72d740e88c12_blog.html>that Republicans want to “end Medicare.” The so-called Social Security cuts<http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2013/10/31/is-john-boehner-demanding-painful-cuts-to-social-security/> stem in part from changing the formula for indexing benefits to inflation — something also supported by President Obama.<http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/history-lesson-whos-responsible-for-chained-cpi/2013/04/20/23a002d6-a9d5-11e2-a8e2-5b98cb59187f_blog.html> And AFP did not oppose hurricane relief; it opposed a version that it believed was fiscally irresponsible.  (Moreover, this mostly had to do with money for Hurricane Sandy, which didn’t even come close to Louisiana.)

For the purpose of this fact check, we will examine the claim that the Koch Brothers have an agenda of protecting “tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas.” That’s a new one.

The Facts

Oddly, this ad cites virtually no sources, except for the claim that the Kochs are spending millions on negative ads. But spokesman Ty Matsdorf supplied us with the group’s documentation.

Essentially, the group’s claim is based on the equivalent of a complex bank shot in pool. See if you can follow the ball.

In 2012, in a procedural vote<http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=2&vote=00181>, Senate Republicans blocked a bill called the Bring Jobs Homes Act, which would have created a new tax credit for companies that return jobs back to the United States; it also would have eliminated a standard corporate deduction for moving expenses if those expenses turned out to stem from moving jobs overseas. Somehow, in the ad, this is wrongly translated into “tax cuts” for sending jobs overseas. But let’s put that to the side for the moment.

Meanwhile,  the well-known Republican group, Americans for Tax Reform, in 2012 received $350,000<https://bulk.resource.org/irs.gov/eo/2013_12_EO/26-4683543_990O_201212.pdf> for its 501 (c)(4) nonprofit arm from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a group that dispenses political funds on behalf of the Kochs.

That same year, ATR raised $30.9 million<https://bulk.resource.org/irs.gov/eo/2014_01_EO/52-1403587_990O_201212.pdf> for its 501 (c)(4). In other words, the Koch contribution was about one percent — a pittance in that year. (Matsdorf notes that in 2010, about 30 percent of the ATR revenue<https://bulk.resource.org/irs.gov/eo/2011_12_EO/26-4683543_990O_201012.pdf> came from Koch entities but the vote in question was in 2012.)

Matsdorf also pointed to a Washington Post article<http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/koch-backed-political-network-built-to-shield-donors-raised-400-million-in-2012-elections/2014/01/05/9e7cfd9a-719b-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html> and graphic<http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inside-the-koch-backed-political-donor-network/2014/01/05/94719296-7661-11e3-b1c5-739e63e9c9a7_graphic.html> that depicted ATR as part of a “Koch network.” But the group is located on fringes of that network, along with other Republican-leaning groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as “outside allies.”

In any case, what does ATR have to do with the Bring Jobs Homes Act? Matsdorf cites the fact that ATR has a taxpayer pledge for candidates to “oppose any and all tax increases” and that ATR once ran a fact check blog pos<http://www.atr.org/state-obamas-tax-assertions-atr-fact-a6700>t on an Obama speech that said that “companies don’t get tax breaks for moving anything overseas.” (One can argue over semantics, but Obama has a tendency to suggest this is a special loophole. Instead, it’s a standard moving expense deduction that is part of the tax code, whether you are moving jobs to Vienna, Va., or Vienna, Austria.)

But we could find no evidence that ATR ever took a position on this bill, which after all is supposedly the reason why Senate Majority PAC says that saving this “tax cut” is a central part of the Koch agenda. Indeed, Ryan Ellis, ATR’s policy director, told The Fact Checker: “I’ve never heard of that bill, so I can tell you with some confidence that we don’t have a position on it.”

Americans for Prosperity does have a position on international business taxation<http://americansforprosperity.org/legislativealerts/tax-reform-priorities-international-taxation#ixzz2vs6kbqb3>, arguing for reducing the cost of sending capital to the United States. “When our tax rates are competitive, companies won’t be incentivized to leave the country with valuable jobs,” spokesman Levi Russell said.

“We advocate for a tax system that does not have carve-outs for anyone — a direct contrast to the assertion in the ad,” said Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for Koch Industries. She added that the company has never lobbied on moving deductions.

The Pinocchio Test

Upon examination, this claim crumbles into dust. The ad not only mischaracterizes an ordinary tax deduction as a special “tax cut” but then it falsely asserts that “protecting” this tax break is part of the Koch agenda. It turns out this claim is based on a tenuous link to an organization that never even took a position on the legislation in question.

We often have  been critical of AFP ads<http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2014/03/11/update-julia-boonstras-claim-her-obamacare-plan-is-unaffordable-gets-downgraded-to-three-pinocchios/> and we realize Democrats want to fight back against an onslaught of attacks. But if you want to join a gun fight, don’t fire blanks.

Four Pinocchios

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Posted on March 14, 2014 .