Wherein I Grab A Mop And Clean Up Some Facts

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The calls for factual cleanup came fast and furious towards the end of the debate, when moderator Bruce DePuyt gave the candidates the chance to ask questions of other candidates. I’m gonna grab a mop and do some quick review, but there’s one stain that ain’t comin’ out of the floor so easily.

First, Ana Sol Gutierrez asked Kathleen Matthews a question predicated on the unsupported claim – which has been bouncing around in whispers and shadows for almost a year now – that Kathleen Matthews hasn’t always been pro-choice. While it made for an interesting rumor a year before the election, at this point, after Emily’s List has endorsed Matthews, asking a question like that without some solid basis for it is pretty sleazy. Matthews deftly batted away the premise of the question.

Second, David Trone, in a somewhat fumbled question, asked Jamie Raskin about his support for two bills. First, Trone asked Raskin about his support for a 2016 bill stripping unemployment benefits for nail salon technicians, a group of largely immigrant women who have been systematically mistreated and marginalized by employers, a practice recently detailed by the New York Times. Trone first asked Kumar Barve, who indicated that he voted against the bill (SB679), which is true (Ana Sol Gutierrez also voted against the bill, as did 28 delegates, including two of Raskin’s District 20 colleagues). Trone then shifted the question to Raskin, who stated flatly “I also voted the right way on that bill,” which is false. Raskin was so persuasively and incorrectly insistent on his vote that, when Trone sought to ask Raskin about a different bill, a woman right behind me shouted “You can’t change the question because you got the facts wrong” at Trone. In fact, it was Raskin who got the facts wrong. I’ll have more on this bill in a separate post later on today.

The third one is really quite remarkable. I can accept that a candidate might not remember a bill, or precisely how he voted on it. But he surely remembers his own campaign ads, especially when those ads have been the subject of criticism not just from another candidate, but from a third party fact-check organization. So when Kumar Barve asked Jamie Raskin to defend his continuing to use ads that Ballotpedia has found to be untruthful, and how that squared with his claim to be in the moral center of the political discourse, Raskin’s response requires full quotation and then some annotation and analysis. Barve’s question starts at 1:11:00 of the video, and Raskin’s response runs for just over a full minute beginning at 1:12:22.

“Very simple, my friend Kumar. You know, and one of the unfortunate things about the race is that people who are your friends, the tensions build, I gotta say, I have enormous respect, friendship and admiration for Kumar Barve.

My ad was written as a compound sentence. Unfortunately, because I don’t have the same kind of money other people on the dais have, we have 15 second ads, it’s very tough to get it all in there, but I believe it’s accurate. What it says is that, everybody’s talking about greenhouse gas emissions, Raskin, I think it says, is the only one endorsed by the Sierra Club, which is true, who has written laws to reduce carbon footprint and to fight fracking.

And I think that’s where our disagreement is. Kumar is not opposed to fracking, unless you’re going to declare you are, you supported a moratorium for two years. I am opposed to fracking. I introduced legislation to stop fracking permanently, abolish it in the state. If your position is you’re totally opposed to it, I will stand corrected, but if your position remains what it was, which is you want to see where the science is going to come out, then I stand totally by my ad.”

One minute, two false descriptions of his own ad, one recurring whine about money from a candidate who has raised $1.8 million, one highly misleading if not false statement about his own actions, and two false descriptions of the distinction between the two legislators’ positions. And finally his belief that support for a fracking moratorium is somehow at odds with support for an eventual ban. That’s a lot of mopping for a one minute answer. Let’s review:

“My ad was written as a compound sentence.” and “Raskin, I think it says, is the only one endorsed by the Sierra Club, which is true, who has written laws to reduce carbon footprint and to fight fracking.”

Nooope.

Oh, and this too.

I mean really, the ad only has 33 words, how hard is it to remember them?

“They all talk about climate change, but Sierra Club chooses Jamie Raskin for Congress, because only Raskin wrote laws to reduce our carbon footprint and is leading the fight against fracking in Maryland.”

That’s not a compound sentence. It is very clear. It says that the endorsement was made because Raskin is the “only . . ” Raskin falsely described his ad in his answer.

“I don’t have the same kind of money other people on the dais have.” 

This might be true of David Trone, but Raskin raised over $1.8 million, only $300,000 less than Kathleen Matthews. If you’d told me that a year ago, I’d say Raskin would have put this race away. Compared to expectations, Raskin has done the best job of fundraising of any candidate. But he spends so much time complaining about other candidates and money, you’d hardly know it. He wants people to believe he’s an underfunded upstart. It’s just not true.

“I introduced legislation to stop fracking permanently, abolish it in the state.”

If by “introduced” Raskin means “lead sponsor,” once again, “Nooope.” Never happened.

If he means that in 2014, he co-sponsored a bill that got an unfavorable committee vote and hasn’t been introduced in either 2015 or 2016, then maybe. 

Or if he means that in 2015, he co-sponsored a one paragraph bill that did not get a vote at all, then again, maybe.

But he left a distinctly different impression yesterday with his words.

Subsequently, I asked the Raskin campaign if it could point me to bills Raskin introduced that would outright ban fracking. Amazingly, what I got back was a reference to SB409 (see below), which was the moratorium that passed in 2015 – the law he whacked Barve over in his comments yesterday! It’s not a ban, nor was it at any point in the legislative process. I also got directed to 2015 and 2016 bills that called for tightening liability rules for fracking, which are obviously not bans, either. And in any event, Raskin was not the lead sponsor of any of these bills, so it’s impossible to claim that he “introduced” any of them.

Kumar is not opposed to fracking.” and “you want to see where the science is going.”

First off, with regard to the ad itself Raskin makes no claim about banning fracking. It says “only Raskin . . . is leading the fight against fracking in Maryland.” In that context, a moratorium is certainly part of that “fight.” Barve moved that bill in 2015.

While Raskin would have you believe there was some huge difference between his and Barve’s position, that’s just not so. Look at the 2015 moratorium bill – the lead sponsor of the Senate cross-file (SB409) was Karen Montgomery, who was also the sponsor of the 2014 bill banning fracking above, a bill that went nowhere. So in 2015, the clear consensus was that a moratorium was the realistic and effective way to go, as there was no significant support for an outright ban.

Not only that, but Jamie Raskin agreed with this assessment. How do I know this? Because – you might want to sit down – he was the lead co-sponsor of SB409. If a moratorium was so at odds with an eventual ban, why in the name of all that is good and holy would Raskin have agreed to serve as the lead co-sponsor of the moratorium bill? And for him now to stand history on its head and publicly attack a fellow legislator for (1) pushing a bill that Raskin played a prominent role in passing, and (2) not being sufficiently anti-fracking on the basis of a bill Raskin didn’t introduce and which had so little support that it wasn’t even introduced again – ever, is just astounding. What I’m left with is the impression that because Kumar Barve passed the moratorium, that’s bad. But because Jamie Raskin was the lead co-sponsor of the very same bill the very same year that is now the law of the state, that’s good.

My head hurts. Whatever that argument amounts to, fact-based isn’t part of the description.

The bottom line is that there’s not one material part of that one minute Raskin response quoted above that is accurate. So in addition to the ads themselves, Raskin’s defense of them adds more inaccuracies to the pile, from the mundane to the ridiculous. One thing Raskin got right: tensions are high as we head down the stretch, and as a result factual statements by the candidates – no matter how confidently and smoothly stated – need to be checked rigorously.

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