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Politics

Attack ads for Sink, Jolly distort truth

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Published:   |   Updated: February 19, 2014 at 08:08 AM

TAMPA — New attack ads from outside groups in the race for Pinellas County’s U.S. House race both distort the truth about the candidates to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly.

The anti-Sink ad, “Loyalty,” comes from the National Republican Congressional Committee, the national Republican Party’s campaign arm for U.S. House races.

The ad repeats discredited attacks on the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare,” and ties Sink to the law. It also contends her loyalty is to President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, even though Sink has kept her distance from Obama politically.

Two anti-Jolly ads, “Privatized” and “We Saw,” come from the House Majority PAC, a Democratic-oriented political action committee that focuses on House races. They tie Jolly to a proposal to divert Social Security revenue to private accounts, which opponents call “partial privatization,” and claim Jolly lobbied for the proposal — a contention he denies, and for which there is no clear proof.

Ad title: “We Saw”

Sponsor: House Majority PAC

Video: A view of the home of a Largo couple, Elizabeth and Rod Snedeker; the Snedekers sitting in a living room in front of a piano talking; Elizabeth Snedeker teaching a piano lesson.

Text:

Elizabeth: “We’re the Snedekers; we’re partially retired.”

Rod: “I was a minister, Elizabeth was a piano teacher.”

Elizabeth: “I’m still teaching lessons, but we really count on Social Security.”

Rod: “David Jolly lobbied for a group that wanted to risk Social Security in the stock market. He still wants it on the table.”

Elizabeth: “When the market crashed, we lost 40 percent of our savings. I don’t think it’s right for David Jolly to want to risk Social Security on the stock market.”

Analysis: Jolly did lobby for a conservative advocacy group, the Free Enterprise Nation, set up by wealthy Pinellas businessman and Republican campaign donor Jim MacDougald, who favors the partial privatization plan. MacDougald is now Jolly’s campaign finance chairman.

Jolly acknowledged on a lobbying disclosure form discussing “Social Security reform” with members of Congress.

Free Enterprise Nation itself never took a position on privatization, according to research by the independent political watchdog FactCheck.org, and Jolly says he never lobbied for that idea. But he has told the Tampa Bay Times that in debate over Social Security reform, all options should be considered, including private accounts.

A spokesman for House Majority PAC said there’s little distinction between MacDougald and the group.

“I would argue strenuously that Jim MacDougald is Free Enterprise Nation. It’s his organization, he created it and ran it,” said Andy Stone.

The Snedekers are active in a Democratic club in Largo.

***

Ad title: “Privatize”

Sponsor: House Majority PAC

Video: Street view of the Washington building containing the office of Jolly’s lobbying firm, Three Bridges Advisers; shots of Jolly’s lobbying disclosure form and an AARP position paper on privatization; shot of the Capitol.

Text:

Narrator: “This is David Jolly’s lobbying office in Washington, D.C. It’s where David Jolly lobbied for a special interest that wanted to privatize Social Security. AARP says privatizing Social Security and risking it in the stock market would eliminate the guarantee and reduce benefits.

“Now David Jolly wants this to be his office and still says privatization should be on the table.

“Don’t let David Jolly get any closer to jeopardizing Social Security.”

Analysis:

This ad repeats the accusation that Jolly lobbied for privatizing Social Security and cites the opposition of AARP, the prominent elderly advocacy group.

AARP Florida has issued a statement saying it was unaware it would be mentioned in the ad, is nonpartisan and does not endorse or oppose candidates for office.

However, AARP Florida spokeswoman Kathy Marma said the ad accurately states the organization’s position on the issue.

***

Ad title: “Loyalty”

Sponsor: NRCC

Video: Unattractive photos of Sink, Obama and Pelosi; photos of elderly people and others looking worried; newspaper headlines about the recent Congressional Budget Office report on Obamacare.

Text:

Narrator: “Alex Sink’s loyalty is to them, not Florida. Why else would she continue to support Obamacare? Three hundred thousand Floridians will lose their current health plans — $700 billion cut from Medicare for seniors — and now, nonpartisan government analysts say Obama will cost our economy up to 2.5 million jobs.

“Yet Alex Sink still supports it. She’s fighting for them, not us.”

Analysis: The claim of 300,000 Floridians losing health coverage refers to letters sent last fall by health insurer Florida Blue to policyholders whose plans don’t meet standards of the Affordable Care Act. But Florida Blue never said it would cancel coverage; policyholders would be enrolled in new policies or offered options.

They also would be eligible to buy new policies, possibly with a government subsidy, through the ACA’s health insurance exchange.

The new standards have been delayed for a year.

The Medicare cuts enacted under the Affordable Care Act affect the Medicare Advantage plan and are similar to those proposed in the budget plan favored by Republicans.

The claim that Obamacare will “cost our economy up to 2.5 million jobs” is a misrepresentation of the CBO report.

The report did not say jobs would be lost — it said about 2.3 million workers would choose not to work, or work fewer hours, because they would no longer be dependent on employers for health insurance.

Sink has been lukewarm in support of Obama and the Affordable Care Act.

She declined to take a position for or against the law in 2010 while running for governor, and told the Tribune editorial board recently she does not think the law should be repealed but should be revised.

During her 2010 campaign, Sink kept her distance from Obama, avoiding appearing on stage with him at a Miami fundraiser, disagreeing with him on issues including repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and blaming the White House for her loss in a scathing post-election interview.

wmarch@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7761

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