Claim Check: Pre-Election Roundup of Ads in Connecticut’s Senate Race

by Categorized: Claim Check, Ethics, Finance, Health, Media, Politics Date:

During the budget battles in Washington in the spring of 2011, a liberal group produced an ad featuring an elderly woman in a wheelchair being pushed through a park by a man in a suit and tie, while America the Beautiful plays in the background and words on the screen tout the Medicare program. But the placid scene takes a decidedly sinister turn, as the on-screen narration states that “Republicans now want to privatize Medicare.” Suddenly, the man in the suit veers off the path, wheels the distressed woman toward a rocky overlook, and dumps her off a cliff.

OK, so perhaps nothing in Connecticut this political season went that completely over the edge. But in the bruising Senate race between Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon, there were certainly moments when honesty and accuracy went on holiday as the candidates scraped for every vote. With the election a few days away, here’s a recap of some of the claims made during the race.

Linda McMahon has a plan to sunset Social Security. We rated this claim the biggest whopper of the campaign. It came from a pair of liberal PACs, not directly from the Murphy campaign, although Murphy repeated the assertion. The ad was based on a statement by McMahon that programs like Social Security should include sunset provisions when they are first passed, so Congress after 10 or 15 years can assess whether the program is sustainable. The PACs transformed that into a claim that “McMahon’s sunset proposal would end Social Security.” With all sides courting older voters, it may have been an irresistible attack. But it was baseless, and we rated the claim as “false.”

Chris Murphy received a sweetheart mortgage deal from Webster Bank. Sixteen months after Murphy was taken to court for missing payments on his mortgage, Webster Bank approved a 4.99 percent home equity loan for Murphy and his wife. Murphy declined to provide paperwork on the loan approval process, and the McMahon campaign naturally pounced. But while it was acceptable to raise questions about the propriety of the loan, the McMahon campaign made serious allegations it could not back up.” Based on the available facts, we rated this ad “significantly misleading.”

Linda McMahon’s tax plan save the average Connecticut family $500 a month. This may be the most persistent claim of the campaign, but repetition does not equal credibility. The McMahon campaign got it’s math wrong, using an inflated income figure for the “average” Connecticut family, and failing to disclose that the purported savings was really a comparison to what families would pay next year if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire and tax rates soared. The real tax savings for the average Connecticut family: about $82 a month. Our rating: “significantly misleading.”

Linda McMahon’s tax plan would give her a $7 million tax cut. The McMahon campaign wasn’t the only side manipulating tax calculations for maximum political benefit. As with McMahon’s claim on middle-class taxes, this ad from Murphy failed to explain that the “cut” wasn’t a cut at all. Our analysis determined that McMahon and her husband might see their taxes drop $10,000 to $15,000 under her plan. The tax claim was part of a broader pair of ads we rated as “somewhat misleading,” but taken individually, the tax claims would have received a harsher rating.

Chris Murphy missed nearly 80 percent of committee hearings. In a classic example of “opposition research,” the McMahon campaign dug into transcripts of Congressional hearings and discovered that Murphy was frequently absent from committee hearings. We rated the original ad “generally accurate,” (our analysis found Murphy missed 76 percent of hearings) although a follow-up ad – claiming newspapers declared Murphy “skipped 80 percent of his job” – was deemed “somewhat misleading.” That ad mischaracterized newspaper coverage of the issue.

Linda McMahon will deny employee health coverage for mammograms. McMahon and Murphy have been in a tough tug-of-war for female voters, which prompted a Murphy ad claiming McMahon supported a proposal that would deny women insurance coverage for contraception and mammograms. The basis was a statement by McMahon that she would have “reluctantly supported” an amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have allowed employers to opt out of covering procedures they found morally or religiously objectionable. The broadly worded amendment had long since died, and it’s real target was contraception, not mammograms. We rated the ad “somewhat misleading.”

Click here to read the full analysis of these and other ads, and here for more on how we fact-check political ads.

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24 thoughts on “Claim Check: Pre-Election Roundup of Ads in Connecticut’s Senate Race

  1. Mike Robinson

    The McMahon “plan” is not real. Freshman senators don’t get to propose “plans” and it is highly unlikely that any of her “plan” would ever become law. Especially from someone with a background as a wrestling promoter and no experience in public policy. They will laugh at her and her “plan” in the Senate.

    It does not matter what dollar amount she claims. It’s not going to happen. Even if her “plan” became a bill, it would have to be approved by both houses and signed by the President.

    1. jj

      Everyone can offer a plan even you. It does not matter that it’s not voted on but that the ideas put forth are heard and discussed. Maybe you could present your plan at a hearing where Murphy actually attends! The fact she is willing to put forth a plan is a risk that Murphy is not willing to take. Or should she not offer one? If she had no ideas or plans would you find fault with that too? Is that why you like Murphy, his lack of substance?

  2. Fred Young

    If so many of these allegations are false, why don’t they just sue each other for slander & such? Is there some political immunity rule or law? A common person would be in big trouble for making public charges against someone else that are non factual, or outright lies. This election has devolved not to ideas & solutions, but who can lie the more convincingly.

  3. Bill Knapp

    Linda’s 80% is misleading, 76% is correct,i.e. Murhpy missed 76% of his committee hearings… Murphy is correct, his voting record is 90%, the key word difference is he missed hearings but made the votes (ideally from what info he gained in attending the hearings, i.e. 0) which says to me, “He voted 14% of the time without on issues that he had not listened to the testimony about”.. That means he “probably” followed the PARTY LINE..That being the case, why not just send the “janitor do his voting for him”.. save us a lot of money. Kind of like Pelosi’s..”you want to know what’s in that law?? Vote for it so we find out what’s in it”..”In the meantime, what difference does it make, we are exmpting ourselves from it”

    1. Wawogi

      No, Bill Knapp. Do you think ALL Congressional representatives attend ALL committee hearings (except for Murphy, of course)? They don’t. They couldn’t. And they don’t have to. (At least some of those “missed” hearings were not even relevant to Connecticut; at least two of them — as reported by the Courant — dealt with issues specific to individual states.) Often, they send aides to cover the hearings, and those aides then convey relevant information to the representatives. Besides, the really important work is done in mark-up sessions, and I’d guess that would cover the 24% of meetings for which Murphy was present. This is not proof that Murphy ignorantly voted as he was “told” to vote. McMahon has no clue how Congress works, and I guess you don’t, either.

      1. jj


        I am not speaking for Bill, but I don’t think all Congressmen attend all of their hearings, but you miss the point. Murphy says Linda is lying about his record (he is not refering to the 76 vs 80 percent number) he says he votes 98% of the time. His statement does not in anyway shape or for prove Linda is lying. He merely spins a separate “truth” as a defense and states that Linda is lying while she is essentially accurate about his attendance record. He does not take your “get out hearings free card” he just falsely accuses Linda of lying. His latest ad drops all mention of hearings and just mentions the lying and his voting record. Why does he lack your candor if he believes as you do that attendence of hearings is not that important? Maybe it’s a lack of courage or character but it is not the truth. He and his PACS lie consistantly about Linda’s views and cries when she pushes back as unfair. Democratic scare tactics are nothing new, roll out old, poor, women, and minorities and say that the Replublicans hate you and want to see you starve, be sick, homeless, and oppressed. They will take away everything you need. They haven’t so far and it’s highly unlikely anyone in the future will. But some people will believe it so they do it. Let’s be real according to Murphy, Linda hates everyone but herself and wants everyone to suffer, is he being honest? Or merely cynical because the tactic works.

        People are complaining that her plan would give her business more money to invest in new jobs are obviously missing the point. I know lets tax her, give the money to Malloy so he can give it to Cigna and have them create the jobs. Let’s see how that works out.

  4. frosty

    The Courant’s claim that McMahon would save only $10,000 to $15,000 under her tax plan is hard to believe. If you use HER calculator on HER website and type in an income of $999,999, 4 exemptions, filing jointly, you find that a simple millionaire will save $53,925.55. Try it yourself. So how is it that McMahon who earns 50 times as much will save so much less? Her tax plan is a fraud designed to benefit the wealthy far more than the average CT family. I would like to see her campaign allow inputting 7, 8 and 9 figure incomes so we can see the true folly of this ‘plan’.

    1. Tom D

      The McMahon’s own 70% of the stock of WWE (a little over 25 million shares). The stock pays a dividend of $0.48. She proposes lowering the tax rate on dividends form 25% (pre Bush) to 15%. That alone will save her $2,511,432. How could you come up with a
      maximum of $15,000?

  5. Pollyanna

    After watching these ads, neither one is fit to serve. What happened to integrity? The are both acting like they are running for class president.

  6. Robert

    Will Rogers once said, ” If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us by politicians there wouldn’t be any inducement to go to heaven. ” So whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, Conservative or Liberal, or an Independent we need to send the CLOWNS in Washington a message. Since they won’t work together to solve our problems, we the people should work together and vote every INCUMBENT out of Office. Then in two years do it again until they start caring about the Voter instead of their “Party, Donators and Lobbyist”. This way they can’t point the Middle Finger at the other party saying that they’re the ones that won’t reach across the political aisle. If they won’t work together, Kick them Out. As for Murphy and McMahon, I’m going to vote for the non-politician.

  7. Paying Attention

    The balance of the Senate vote is at steak, Murphy votes Left! I do not want to see Obamacare and it’s 2 Trillion cost hit the middle class, Voting for Linda!

    Maybe just maybe the Citizens of CT will stop the one party rule that this year has:

    1) The Dems gave us the biggest Tax increase EVER at $2 Billion dollars.

    2) The Dems let hard core prisoners out of jail EARLY to rob, mame and kill the tax payrers in CT.

    3) The Dems Built a $1 Billion Dollar busway from Hartford to New Britain, we already had a bus route that did that! $600 million to build, $20 Million tax dollars each yr to run. CTFastrack to Bankruptcy!

    4) The Dems gave Jackson Labs $1 Million per job and has allowed them to count jobs at UConn and others so they can claim 300 jobs and get a FREE building we taxpayers paid for. JaxLabs is a non-profit, we can not tax them to get our money back, that’s why Florida rejected them.

    5) The Dems used Taxpayers money, funded hundreds of Millions of Give-a-way’s to UBS, ESPN, and CIGNA (yes CIGNA who just laid off hundreds of CT workers) in the name of job creation, WHAT A WASTE! And the hedge fund got $1.5 Million and the owner made $3.2 BILLIONlasy year in his paycheck, yes he desperately needed our TAX dollars or he surely would not survive!!

    6) The Dems Unionized day care moms against their will, taking the food money for kids and giving it directly to the Unions for “Dues”, just the Dems supporting the Unions at any cost.

    7)Look at John Larson, he says he’s doing a Great Job…at WHAT? Look at how many thousands of jobs have left CT under his watchful eyes, Thousands of Pratt & Whitney JOBS GONE to other states! Great Job Loser Larson!

    8) CT’s credit rating was downgraded, the loans we take from now on will cost more…taxpayers will PAY MORE! The Dannel did not cut, he actually increased the state budget 8% on the biggest recession since the 1929 depression. Spend on Dannel Malloy spend on because all you have to do is raise taxes, spend more and raise taxes more and more!

    Taxpayers will vote you back in because thay are not paying attention and the Dems have the total blessing of the Hartford Courant that is supporting the bankruptcy of CT.

  8. frosty

    I wish the Courant’s “Claim Check” would respond to my and Tom D’s comments, above. The Courant clearly has its ‘facts’ wrong.

    1. jj


      Are you using her income or her worth (I am assuming the calculator doesn’t allow a higher number)? Why four deductions? Aren’t her children adults? Maybe you are inputting the correct data?

      The point of giving tax breaks to small and medium businesses and their owners is to give them an incentive to hire more people. When I get a deduction I use it to pay bills both help the economy but one grows it. Linda has spent 80 million dollars to run for office and as a smart business person she could have invested it and in six years she might have a return of hundreds of millions, obviously she is not running for a tax cut. I am willing to bet that Murphy’s net worth will increase dramatically when he is finished with office. That begs the question of who is in it for the money?

      If we take the net worth of the top 100 richest people according to Forbes that would be less than one trillion dollars, with a current deficit of 10 trillion and increasing daily it would not fix the problem. Then we have the problem of would invest in our economy if they had no money. Class envy and class warfare work for the democrats but what happens when they run out of taking money from the rich? Who will they take it from then?

    2. Matthew Kauffman Post author

      Hi frosty. Sorry for the slow response. Busy couple of days and I’m just seeing this.

      Tom D. emailed me directly over the weekend and here is the explanation I sent him:

      The vast majority of the money the McMahons report in income is in the form of qualified dividends from their WWE stock holdings, and that income is taxed as capital gains, not as ordinary income. Compared to current income tax rates, McMahon’s plan would reduce rates on ordinary income for certain income levels, but does not change capital gains rates for high-income filers.

      Still, the McMahons do routinely report more than $1 million in income that IS taxed as ordinary income, and you are correct that plugging the maximum amount of $999,999 into her online calculator generates a purported savings above $50,000. But that “savings” is a comparison not to what families currently pay, but to what they might pay in the future if the Bush tax cuts were to expire and rates were to jump.

      Paying less than you might in the future is not a tax “cut” – which is why we declared it misleading when the McMahon campaign (using the same flawed calculation that is built into that online calculator) claimed that middle class families would save $6,000 a year under her plan. But it is likewise misleading for the Murphy camp to use that same flawed comparison to claim that the McMahons would see a $7 million cut under the plan.

      In critiques of both of those claims, I compared tax liability under McMahon’s plan to what a filer would owe under current rates – basically calculating how much a filer’s taxes would drop compared to what they pay now. The top tax rates under McMahon’s plan are the same as they are now, so there is only a swath of income affected by her plan before the benefit maxes out. That benefit tops out at less than $8,000 in tax savings. But the campaign has not been entirely clear on where it would set income tax tiers and personal exemptions, and there are other minor changes in her plan that could boost her savings, which is how we arrived at an estimate in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.

      I hope that’s helpful, and again, thanks for writing.


      Matt Kauffman

  9. LeeB

    It matters not who said what, who lied, who exaggerarted or who was elected locally, state wide or nationally. The average citizens of this once great country, the vast majority of we the citizens have been and will continue to be the pack animals to carry the few towards the future. Maybe it is time for WE THE PEOPLE IN ORDER TO FORM A MORE PERFECT UNION and take back OUR COUNTRY from those who think they can do anything they want and not be held accountable for the harm they do.

  10. Sofía


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