PolitiFact Georgia and the AJC Truth-O-Meter focused on the numbers this week, with four fact checks that put our math skills to the test.
Political strategist Karl Rove was back in our sights this week, with a check of his comments on the political and racial makeup of two metro Atlanta counties. We looked at the impact of excise taxes — particularly a cigarette tax — on lower-income consumers. We also checked a claim about the Democratic representation in the Georgia Legislature made by the state’s Democratic Party leader. And through our national PolitiFact team, we continued our review of claims about Obamacare.
Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below. Full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/.
Karl Rove: The Hispanic population in Gwinnett and Henry counties has increased by 153 percent and 339 percent, respectively, since 2000 while Republican presidential candidates are getting a smaller percentage of the vote in those counties.
Rove, the chief political strategist behind George W. Bush’s two White House victories, has been preaching that the Republican Party must do better with nonwhites if it wants to get a Republican back in the Oval Office.
He made this claim last month in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. The once-rural counties in the Atlanta area have been reliable Republican terrain in statewide and national elections, and Rove wants it to stay that way.
Our research produced numbers either identical or very close to Rove’s claims. But his emphasis on Hispanic numbers implied a greater influence on the election outcome in the two counties than they brought. African-American voters, who got cursory mention in his remarks, may have had a larger influence on the performance of GOP presidential candidates in those counties.
That context is necessary to fully consider why GOP candidates did not do as well in Gwinnett and Henry counties.
We rated Rove’s statement Mostly True.
David Sutton: Says “excise taxes are … disproportionately burdening middle- and lower-income consumers.”
President Barack Obama’s proposal to increase cigarette taxes to help fund pre-kindergarten programs has gotten pushback from some political and business leaders. The taxes could be almost $1 a pack.
In an interview last month, Sutton, a spokesman for Altria, the parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris, offered this rationale for his opposition. By some estimates, approximately three of 10 low-income Americans are smokers.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says a larger percentage of low-income smokers quit once prices rise, but that those who decide to continue smoking are disproportionately impacted by increases in excise taxes.
Numerous studies showed Sutton’s claim was on target, but a greater percentage of low-income smokers than higher-income smokers also quit smoking.
We rated Sutton’s claim Mostly True.
Americans for Prosperity: Says health insurance premiums will rise under the national health care law.
Americans for Prosperity produced an ad with this claim that ran in Ohio and Florida. To make this universal statement, the group both wants us to accept certain details about a woman, Julie, and disregard others. Chief among these is how she gets her insurance today. Statistically, she is most likely to fall into groups that are likely to do well under the federal health care law, otherwise known as Obamacare.
The most detailed supporting document focuses on the group that represents just 7 percent of today’s insurance market. The individual market is the one most likely to see rate hikes, but the Affordable Care Act provides tax credits to cushion those increases.
While most states have yet to announce their final rates, every expert we spoke to agreed that some people will pay more.
The AFP ad cherry-picks the facts and draws a conclusion beyond what the evidence supports, but it will prove accurate for some people.
We rated the AFP claim Half-True.
Nikema Williams: “Georgia is nearly 50 percent Democratic and (the Republican majority) diminished our voting strength to 32 percent through gerrymandered maps.”
Last month, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that set the rules for federal elections and voting preclearance in 15 states, including Georgia.
Williams, interim chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, criticized the court’s decision and localized the need for the law in this claim.
Our research found that polling data in which voters self-identify their party affiliation supported Williams’ 50 percent claim, although some actual voting numbers show large advantages in votes for Republican candidates.
The Democratic representation in the Georgia Legislature is 32 percent, but placing the blame for that low representation on Republican-led redistricting is not totally fair. Political science professors also reminded us that when Democrats are in control, they, too, are guilty of redistricting to their party’s advantage.
Williams’ claim contained some truth, but it left out significant context that might give the reader a different impression.
We rated Williams’ claim Half True.
HOW DOES POLITIFACT GEORGIA’S TRUTH-O-METER WORK?
Our goal is to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution fact-check statements by local, state and national political leaders, including lobbyists and interest groups. We then rate them on the AJC Truth-O-Meter.
To fact-check the claim, reporters first contact the speaker to verify the statement. Next, the research begins. Reporters consult a variety of sources, including industry and academic experts. This research can take a few hours or a few days, depending on the claim. Reporters then compile the research into story form and include a recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling.
The fact check then moves on to a three-member panel of editors who debate the statement and the reporter’s recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling. The panel votes on a final ruling; majority prevails.