Whatever advantages attach to incumbency at election time, there is one obvious potential downside: Officeholders create an inescapable trail of policy decisions and are typically linked to the fortunes — and certainly the misfortunes — of their dominions during their terms.
All of that creates opportunities for opponents, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley is out with an aggressive new ad mining the record of incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy on key pocketbook issues: taxes, jobs and the economy.
At the beginning of the ad, an earnest-sounding narrator proclaims that Malloy’s policies as governor have “failed so miserably” and that “Connecticut’s hurting.” Those are generic statements of opinion that are fair game and don’t lend themselves to fact-checking.
But from there, the ad gets specific, with three distinct claims: that under Malloy Connecticut saw the largest tax increase in the state’s history, that Connecticut was ranked as having the second-worst economy in the nation, and that employment growth here has lagged the rest of the country.
All of the claims are sourced, and all are generally supportable.
In 2011, Malloy proposed and the legislature passed a budget that included $1.5 billion in additional taxes, which Malloy has acknowledged is the largest tax increase in raw numbers in the state’s history.
It is not the largest increase when adjusted for inflation, but Foley’s representation is fair. This is akin to a record-setting price for, say, a work of art at an auction, which could be fairly described as the “most ever paid for a painting” — even if an earlier, lower price would exceed it if adjusted for inflation.
The claim that Connecticut has the second-worst economy is based on a ranking published in June by CNBC that sought to identify the best and worst states for business by analyzing 56 “measures of competitiveness” that were boiled down to 10 broad categories, including the strength of a state’s economy.
Connecticut’s overall rating was 46th out of the 50 states, and CNBC did rate the state highly on some categories of business competitiveness: education, access to capital and quality of life. But the Foley ad correctly state’s that Connecticut’s economy was ranked 49th out of 50, beating only Alaska.
That rating was based on data related to economic growth, job creation, the residential real estate market, credit ratings, revenues compared with budget projections and the number of major corporations with headquarters in the state. Rankings like these require complex judgment calls, but CNBC’s methodology is reasonable and impartial, and the Foley ad accurately describes the network’s ranking for Connecticut’s economy.
Lastly, the ad’s narrator declares that “jobs are hard to come by” while viewers see a statement, attributed to the Los Angeles Times, that “Employment growth in Connecticut has lagged behind the nation.”
That phrase appears in a May 26, 2014, article examining efforts in Connecticut and elsewhere to raise the minimum wage, and is based on employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from December 2013 to April 2014. At the time (April’s numbers have since been revised), seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment nationally rose over those months by about 0.6 percent while Connecticut’s employment numbers dropped about 0.2 percent.
Those are not the latest figures for employment, and it would be misleading to claim a lag in job growth if more-updated numbers told a different story. But a broader analysis shows the claim remains on reasonably solid footing.
Extending the time frame to include the latest-available figures shows that employment nationally rose about 1.2 percent from December to July, while in Connecticut employment grew by 0.4 percent.
Still, job growth is a moving target. The state’s figures, for example, were depressed by a particularly sharp drop from December to January. Looking only at January to July, the state and national job-growth figures are nearly identical. But conversely, extending the data backward to capture a full year shows that from July 2013 to July 2014, U.S. employment rose nearly 1.9 percent — three times the rate of growth in Connecticut. (And starting from Malloy’s inauguration in January 2011, Connecticut’s employment has risen 3.2 percent while national job numbers are up 6.3 percent.)
While different time frames will yield different job-growth statistics — and job growth isn’t the only way to measure employment health — the Foley ad accurately quotes the Los Angeles Times story, and the data in the Times story fairly reflects the general employment trend.
In what may be a harbinger of a rough-and-tumble campaign ahead, the Foley ad starts off with an unspecified allegation that Malloy is “falsely attacking Tom Foley.”
A Foley campaign spokesman identified statements by Malloy that the campaign disputes. If those challenges are made specifically in subsequent ads, Claim Check will evaluate them. For now, we deem unspecific claims about an opponent’s credibility to be part of the routine jousting of a political battle.
But for the specific claims in this spot, Foley has adequate support for the claims. As such, we rate this ad Generally Accurate.