Now that we’re a solid week past the U.S. Senate primary, the two winners have had a chance to shake off their brief victory dances and get down to the business of airing nasty ads about each other.
Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate, was first out of the gate, with a spot asserting that U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, her Democratic opponent, “didn’t show up for the job you paid him to do.” Now Murphy has responded with an ad titled “That’s Real” in which he states: “Linda McMahon will do and say anything to get ahead.”
Those are perhaps the most memorable lines in each ad, and surely the pitches that most raise the ire of the target’s supporters. But as eyebrow-raising as they may be, those lines are mere noise for fact-checkers – worthy of note to gauge the tone of the campaign, but in the end, subjective assertions that do not lend themselves to verification or negation.
So as with McMahon’s ad earlier this week, we’re focused only on factual assertions as we evaluate Murphy’s ad, which makes claims about his voting record and his work to obtain funding for a Waterbury industrial site. Those claims, we found, stand up to scrutiny.
McMahon’s ad focused on Murphy’s low attendance rate at committee hearings. In response, Murphy states in his ad that “My voting record is 97 percent.” That’s true.
According to GovTrack.us, a non-partisan group that tracks Congressional votes, Murphy missed 131 of the 5,034 votes taken since he joined Congress in 2007. That’s a voting record of 97.4 percent, in line with the ad’s claim.
A year ago, Murphy’s cumulative record was even higher – 98.5 percent. But that has slipped recently, and in the weeks since the end of the July Fourth recess – which were also the weeks leading up to last week’s primary — Murphy missed nearly a quarter of the 105 votes cast, according to GovTrack.us. But for his entire Senate candidacy since his announcement in January 2011, Murphy has maintained a 96 percent voting record.
In any event, the ad is accurate in saying his overall voting record is 97 percent.
Most of the ad cites Murphy’s work to secure funding to clean up the Waterbury Industrial Commons, a 29-acre site operated for decades by the Chase Brass & Copper Co.
“I’m focused on creating jobs,” Murphy says in the ad. “Like when I convinced Congress to invest in cleaning up this industrial site, putting 75 people to work.”
During World War II, the metals plant operated around the clock manufacturing war munitions, but after the company vacated the property in 1980, Waterbury was left with an environmental mess.
In 2009, Murphy and Sen. Joseph Lieberman sponsored an earmark to the Defense Authorization bill to include $15 million for the Waterbury Industrial Commons Redevelopment Project. The bill passed with the funding intact and was signed by the president, and Murphy can fairly take credit for it. Of course, one man’s “investment” may be another’s wasteful earmark, but while the McMahon campaign has suggested the $15 million wasn’t worth it, that doesn’t change the accuracy of the ad.
As for the claim of “putting 75 people to work,” there is an ample record that the remediation and demolition work has involved that many people and more. These are not permanent positions, but Murphy’s language – “putting … people to work” – is sufficient to make the assertion accurate.
The ad goes on to promise longer-term jobs, asserting that as a result of the clean-up work, “companies here will expand and attract hundreds more Connecticut jobs.” That’s a prediction, and therefore not subject to fact-checking, but it is at least the goal for the site.
Murphy ends with something of a tagline, saying he approved the message “because that’s not just a plan, that’s real.” That’s intended as a response to a persistent McMahon campaign theme that she has a plan to create jobs and Murphy does not.
That will be for the campaigns to duke out, in between running negative ads accusing the other of running negative ads. But the verifiable claims in this spot are on solid ground, so overall, we rate Murphy’s ad Generally Accurate.