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Truth Test: Spinning the shutdown

Once again, Sen. Mark Udall is trying to portray his challenger Rep. Cory Gardner as reckless during the floods.
Cory Gardner and Mark Udall

KUSA - Once again, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) is trying to portray his challenger Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) as reckless during the floods.

In this latest TV ad running in Colorado, Udall gets more specific than he did last time we tested his claims on this topic.

9NEWS will hold those who run political ads on our networks accountable for what they say. To learn more about how political ads and fact-checking work on 9NEWS, please read these answers to our common questions and comments.

MORE POLITICAL ADS: Find the entire collection of Truth Tests here.

Udall announced the ad himself, appearing on camera to make his claims, emphasizing "big differences between Congressman Gardner and me" and arguing "it's a Senator's job to stand up for Colorado."

The implication is that Gardner wouldn't stand up for the state in a time of crisis, a message Udall builds by bringing up the 2013 government shutdown.

CLAIM: "Just one year ago, Congressman Gardner stood with his party in Washington, voting to shut down the government, right when Colorado was recovering from historic floods."

VERDICT: True, but needs context

The overall claim here is true, but the wording requires some additional context.

Gardner did vote in line with the Republican strategy that led to the government shutdown.

That didn't happen by passing a bill to shut it down, the way this ad makes it look by referencing votes on screen.

Those votes were Republican spending packages, which passed the House. They would have funded the government, but also contained language aimed at curbing Obamacare.

For that reason, the president made it clear he wouldn't sign that bill, which had no chance of passing the Senate regardless.

Republicans knew they could cause a shutdown by forcing the healthcare issue to be part of the discussion about keeping the government open.

However, it takes two to tango, and the Democrats didn't want to mix the ACA into the spending debate. It would have been possible to accept the GOP plan and avoid a shutdown.

Whether it was fair to bundle those concepts is the core of the debate.

It's also worth pointing out that Gardner did eventually vote to end the shutdown as well, which most House Republicans did not.

CLAIM: The government shutdown hurt Colorado's flood recovery.

VERDICT: Misleading

It's very misleading to say the government shutdown hurt response to the disaster.

As promised by Vice President Joe Biden on his visit to Colorado, federal workers never stopped responding to the floods in the shutdown.

That's not to say there weren't headaches.

There were 120 national guard engineers which the state had to pay to keep on the job during the shutdown, but they did stay on the job.

The Udall campaign can point to all kinds of articles featuring people worried about what might happen if the shutdown kept going, but to argue that it had a measurable impact on flood recovery is deceptive.

CLAIM: The government shutdown hurt Colorado's national parks.


The parks closed during the shutdown, which was especially hurtful to the town of Estes Park, Colorado, costing business there tourist dollars.

It was a big enough issue in the town, that the state ended up paying to re-open Rocky Mountain National Park before the conclusion of the shutdown.

The park also took a direct $10 million hit because of the closure.

CLAIM: The government shutdown hurt Colorado's veterans.

VERDICT: Needs context

There is something to this claim, but it's important to understand that VA medical facilities kept up and running in the shutdown.

However, thousand of VA office workers were furloughed, adding to some of the agency's backlog.

There were also indications that a prolonged shutdown could halt benefits to veterans, but the impasse didn't drag on that long.

CLAIM: The government shutdown hurt Colorado's small business owners.


This claim could be covered by the aforementioned impact to tourism in Estes Park, but there were also problems dealing with the federal Small Business Administration and plenty of government contract workers were hit by the shutdown.

BOTTOM LINE: It's fair to point out Gardner's participation in the strategy that led to the 2013 government shutdown.

The Udall ad does raise some fair points about the effect of the shutdown, but it crosses the line when it accuses Gardner of messing up flood recovery.

The ad vilifies Gardner for that, which (as we've pointed out before) is in stark contrast to the political cooperation we saw back when the floods actually happened.

(9NEWS researcher Jordan Sabolish contributed to this report.)

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