TAMPA — The onslaught of attack ads by national political groups in the Pinellas County special congressional election continues, with new ads claiming Obamacare, supported by Alex Sink, cuts Medicare and harms the elderly, and that “insurance companies and special interests” are funding David Jolly’s race.
The ads also repeat the accusation that Jolly lobbied to privatize Social Security.
Like previous ads, half a dozen new ones are usually based on a kernel of truth but distort or exaggerate that truth or give false implications.
Ad title: “Two Reasons”by the Jolly campaign
Video: Jolly working in a kitchen with his mother, Judith Jolly of Dade City, and his aunt, Carol Mathews of Clearwater.
Jolly: “You’re looking at two of the most important people in my life. So protecting their Social Security means everything for me. It’s personal. That’s why I’m fighting Obamacare. It takes $700 billion out of Medicare, forcing many to lose their insurance and doctors.”
Judith Jolly: “Now Sink and her friends are running ads to scare us that even the media condemns.”
Mathews: “We stand with David.”
Jolly: “And I stand with them and all of Pinellas.”
Judith Jolly: “He learned that from Bill Young.”
Jolly: “I’m David Jolly and I approved this message.”
Ad title: “Alex Sink: Medicare Cuts”by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Video: Scenes of the House chamber, an elderly couple in a hospital room, photos of Sink, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Capitol.
Narrator: “To pay for Obamacare, Washington is forcing seniors to endure deep cuts to Medicare Advantage. Sadly, Alex Sink supports these cuts, sticking with Nancy Pelosi who wants to keep Obamacare intact, which cuts Medicare by $716 billion. Even though it means higher costs and lost benefits, Sink calls Obamacare ‘an exciting prospect.’ The last thing Pinellas seniors can afford is Alex Sink, a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and her risky scheme.”
Ad title: “The Choice’by the National Republican Congressional Committee
Video: Photos and clips of Alex Sink and David Jolly
Narrator: “There‘s a big difference in the race for Congress. On spending:”
Debate moderator: “Do you support a balanced budget amendment, Ms. Sink?”
Sink: “No I don’t.”
Debate moderator: “Mr. Jolly?”
Jolly: “Yes I do, firmly.”
Narrator: “On Obamacare, here’s Alex Sink:”
Sink: “It’s kind of an exciting prospect.”
Narrator: “And David Jolly:”
Jolly: “Obamacare has hurt people in Pinellas County.”
Narrator: “David Jolly — cut spending, stop Obamacare. Alex Sink — more spending, defend Obamacare. She’s fighting for them, not us.”
“Two Reasons” and “Medicare Cuts” repeat Republican charges that the Affordable Care Act damages Medicare.
The ACA does include $716 billion in reductions in projected growth of spending on Medicare from 2013-22, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
But these “cuts” are in reimbursement for health care providers, including insurance companies, not benefits to recipients. The Obama administration contends they’re being used to pay for increases in benefits including provision of no-cost preventive services.
It’s also true that much of the cuts come from the Medicare Advantage program, under which private insurance companies provide Medicare services to about a quarter of all recipients, more than a third in Florida.
The plan, set up in 2003, was intended to lower costs through competition. Instead, it has ended up costing more, leading to calls for changes. Some advantage plans offer benefits not available under traditional Medicare, such as dental or vision coverage or even gym memberships.
But the statement in the chamber ad that Sink “supports these cuts” is false and that she wants “to keep Obamacare intact” is questionable. Sink opposes repeal of the ACA but says it should be revised, and opposes the Medicare Advantage cuts.
The chamber ad also includes a false implication concerning Sink’s quote, “an exciting prospect.” It referred to the possibility that under the ACA, individuals can buy their own health policies without depending on their employers, so they can leave their jobs to start businesses or pursue other interests.
Whether the Medicare Advantage changes are “forcing many to lose their insurance and doctors,” when they otherwise wouldn’t have, is at best debatable and unproven.
Last year, a consulting company study often cited by Republicans found a slight decrease in the number of plans available under Medicare Advantage. But the Kaiser Family Foundation found more, not fewer, clients signing up for the plans, leading the nonpartisan Factcheck.org to call similar claims unfounded.
Sink favors a balanced budget, but opposes a constitutional amendment, saying it could hamstring the government in the case of a national emergency or economic crisis.
Ad title: “They Profit” by the Sponsor: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Video: Clip from a Jolly ad showing a leaking bucket; elderly people looking at bills and medications; office building; Jolly speaking
Narrator: “Who’s behind these ads smearing Alex Sink? Insurance companies and special interests. They spent millions on David Jolly. And Jolly’s pledged to take us back to when insurance companies charged women more than men and denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. And Jolly praised a plan ending Medicare’s guarantee, forcing seniors to negotiate with insurance companies.
“They profit. We pay the price.”
Ad title: Friends of Democracy radio spot by the Friends of Democracy PAC
Narrator: “Most people are proud when they do something good. When they accomplish something. Or help someone. But David Jolly says he’s proud of being a Washington lobbyist. David Jolly is proud of being exactly what’s wrong with Washington.
“David Jolly was paid millions to influence Congress. And who did David Jolly lobby for? A special interest that wanted to risk Social Security in the stock market.
“AARP says risking Social Security in the stock market would quote ‘eliminate the guarantee … and reduce benefits.’ That’s what David Jolly is proud of?
“Alex Sink is different: She’ll stand up to the special interests, crack down on lobbying, and protect Social Security.
“But Alex Sink needs to win this election first, and the special interest groups that want to privatize Social Security are spending millions to stop her. But they don’t have a vote. You do. Alex Sink for Congress.”
Ad title: “Profiting at Our Expense” by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Video: Elderly people in domestic settings; clip of Jolly speaking.
Unnamed elderly woman: “Here’s what bothers me: David Jolly lobbied for those that want to “privatize Social Security.”
Unnamed elderly man: “Risking it on the stock market. Jolly even said:”
Jolly: “Social Security is not guaranteed.”
Man: “And Jolly praised a plan ending Medicare’s guarantee.
Woman: “Costing us over 6,000 more a year. Insurance companies and lobbyists like David Jolly profit. At our expense.”
Analysis: Two ads repeat the accusation that Jolly lobbied for an interest group that sought to privatize Social Security. Jolly denies that, as does the founder of the group, and there is no proof.
Jolly also denies that lobbying is “what’s wrong with Washington,” saying he lobbied for causes beneficial to Pinellas County.
Among Jolly’s lobbying clients was The Free Enterprise Nation, founded by Pinellas County businessman Jim MacDougald, now Jolly’s campaign finance chairman.
MacDougald has said he supports personal accounts under Social Security, but Free Enterprise Nation never took a stance on the issue, according to independent factcheckers, and MacDougald said it was not part of the legislative priorities included in Jolly’s instructions.
Are “insurance companies and special interests” funding the attacks on Sink? Insurance companies have contributed to the ads’ sponsors, but there’s no proof they’re dominant contributors.
The National Republican Campaign Committee has received $638,342 from insurance industry sources in this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, but the industry isn’t high on the list of contributing industries.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Action Network, which has also run anti-Sink ads, don’t report their donors. But in 2011 and 2012, insurance giant Aetna accidentally disclosed having given $3 million to American Action and $4 million to the Chamber.
“Profiting at Our Expense” includes what appears to be a false implication concerning Jolly’s comment that Social Security “is not guaranteed” in a television interview. He meant that it should be.
The accusation that Jolly “praised a plan ending Medicare’s guarantee” is questionable.
Jolly has made positive comments about the budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House budget committee. It includes converting Medicare to a premium support or voucher program.
But Jolly says he doesn’t support the Medicare changes or the Ryan budget as a whole.