In this case, we examine an ad being aired by U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton (R-Colorado). It refers, in part, to her Republican primary opponent, Ken Buck. The primary election will be held on Aug. 10. The winner will face the winner of the Democratic primary between Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Andrew Romanoff.
Norton is running this commercial 73 times on the networks of 9NEWS at a gross cost of $66,250.
QUOTE: Seen those TV ads attacking me? They're paid for by a shady interest group doing the bidding of Ken Buck.
TRUTH: The ads Jane Norton is referring to are paid for by an organization called Americans for Job Security. (Source: www.savejobs.org). Whether it's shady is a matter of opinion. What's fact is that the organization is registered as a 501(c)(6) under the federal tax code, a membership organization surrounding "common business interests" which allows an unlimited amount of lobbying as long as it relates to the organization's charter, but political campaigning may not be its primary activity. (Source: Internal Revenue Service, http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/pub/irs-tege/eotopicl03.pdf)
Donors do not have to be disclosed.
Here's the big problem with that sentence in the commercial. It accuses Buck of breaking the law and there's no outside entity backing up that allegation right now.
It is against federal campaign finance law for candidates like Buck to communicate with outside groups like Americans for Job Security which are registered as nonprofits with the federal government. (Source: Internal Revenue Service: http://www.irs.gov/charities/political/index.html)
One of Norton's supporters has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging coordination between the two entities (Source: Politico.com link to FEC complaint: http://www.politico.com/static/PPM41_buck_complaint_pdf.html), but it has not been ruled on.
QUOTE: You'd think Ken would be man enough to do it himself.
TRUTH: Buck's campaign denies any connection.
Owen Loftus, the Buck campaign press secretary, sent the following e-mail to 9NEWS: "We have no association with these outside groups. Ken is running a positive campaign, and will continue to run a race that represents Colorado's grassroots. Unfortunately, our opponent has raised vast sums of money from Washington insiders and lobbyists in order to wage a negative smear campaign against Ken. Colorado deserves better."
QUOTE: Here's the truth. In state government, I cut budgets.
TRUTH: This isn't true and here's why.
The reality of how Colorado's government is set up is that the only individual who can literally "cut budgets" is the governor and the only way the state's chief executive can do that is through a gubernatorial veto or through line-item veto power. Spending overall is determined by state lawmakers at the state legislature. They are the ones who approve budgets, according to Colorado State University Political Science Professor John Straayer, who has written the definitive book on Colorado's state government, "The Colorado General Assembly." (University Press, 1990, 2000)
Now, the process can and often does start with department heads. Norton is referring to the time when she ran the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) from 1999-2003. The department's budget is comprised of three separate pools of money (general fund, cash funds, and federal funds) that lead to a total dollar amount.
The general fund is full of state income and sales taxes and funds programs that "benefit a majority of state citizens," according to the Legislature's Budget in Brief document. (Source: http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/jbc/FY08-09BIB.pdf, page 1) According to budget figures provided by the state, from when she took over to when she left CDPHE, Norton's general fund budget decreased 47.40 percent. (Source: http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/jbc/apphist.pdf). It went from $23,762,669 in fiscal year (FY) 1999-2000 to $12,500,105 in FY 2003-2004.) These are the figures Norton is using to defend her statement that "she cut government spending."
Norton's critics say that is only part of the story as the other parts of her department's budget, the cash funds and the federal funds, went up dramatically over that same period. State budget figures show CDPHE's cash funds went from $56,013,323 in FY 1999-2000 to $86,023,467 in FY 2003-2004. CDPHE's federal funds went from $147,103,845 in FY 1999-2000 to $159,729,485 in FY 2003-2004. (Source: http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/jbc/apphist.pdf)
Cash funds are set up to "receive earmarked revenues, such as fees and fines," according to the Legislature's Budget in Brief document. Norton says when she ran the department, she could not control how many nurses, for example, sought and paid for a license in a given year. She says she could not control how many companies paid fines for environmental violations. She asserts her role as the head of the department was like a general manager of a baseball team who can control payroll, but cannot control what Major League Baseball sends to her team in things like television revenue.
Her critics, including the online grassroots organization ProgressNow, say she is using fuzzy math.
"Norton's budget at the Dept. of Health actually grew while she was the director," wrote Bobby Clark, the executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, in an e-mail to 9NEWS. "Her general fund money may have gone down some, but that was only a small part of her budget. And, in any case, her 'spending' did not go down even if some of her funding did. She's being disingenuous at the least about whether she was shrinking her government department."
QUOTE: Cut programs and reduced staff.
TRUTH: This is true.
The highest profile example of cutting programs came when, as the head of CDPHE, Norton "first tried and then succeeded in cutting off a $381,956 state grant to Planned Parenthood for low-income women's health services." (Source: Rocky Mountain News, Nov. 23, 2002, Patricia Calhoun column in Westword, Nov. 7, 2002) Norton "attributed the action to strict compliance with a state constitutional mandate - passed by citizen initiative in 1984 and later reaffirmed in a second statewide vote - that prohibits any direct or indirect use of state money to subsidize abortions." (RMN, Nov. 23, 2002)
In both 2000 and 2001, the number of staffers in her office was reduced. (Source: Colorado General Assembly website: http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2010a/cslFrontPages.nsf/PrevSessionInfo?OpenForm)
QUOTE: Ken Buck's office. His spending skyrocketed by 40 percent.
TRUTH: Technically this appears to be false, but I'm not sure this is the Norton campaign's fault.
They got their information from an article written for internet-based The Business Word where the reporter wrote the following sentence: "A fact sheet provided by Buck's office says that from 2005 to 2010, the DA's total proposed budget increased 40.47 percent." (Source: Donald E. Johnson, The Business Word, April 18, 2010 at http://www.businessword.com/index.php?/weblog/comments/interview_part_ii_ken_buck_has_run_his_da_office_like_a_fiscal_conservative/.)
According to the Weld County Commission, that number is almost 10 percent too high. According to figures, the commission got from the county finance director, the Weld County District Attorney Office budget went up from $3,391,674 in 2005 to $4,429,720 in 2009. That's a roughly 31 percent increase. Due to the recession, the budget actually went down in 2010.
During that time frame, the commission reports that the number of district courts in the county increased 100 percent, the population increased that decade by 40.8 percent and crime in the county had decreased 50 percent. (Source: Weld County Commission letter to Norton campaign representative: May 7, 2010)
The Norton campaign sent a statement to The Denver Post back in May which read that Buck was trying to "lawyer his way around it, but the fact is, the buck stopped with Ken, and his budget increased." (Source: Denver Post, May 12: http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2010/05/12/weld-county-commissioners-buck-is-fiscally-responsible/)
However, all five Weld County Commissioners wrote a letter to a representative of the Norton campaign requesting they cease using erroneous figures. Further, they defended the budgetary increases they approved for Buck's district attorney's office. "The Weld County Commissioners are impressed with the return on investment we have made in our District Attorney's Office and would not approve budget increases if we didn't believe it was to the benefit of our county," read the letter written to Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, who is a Norton supporter.
QUOTE: We need a senator who's actually cut spending and has the backbone to stand her ground. I'm Jane Norton and I approved this message.
TRUTH: This is an opinion.
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)