Putting Culberson's ad to the truth test

October 31, 2008 4:09:26 PM PDT
Campaigns are making a last minute push to win your support before early voting starts Monday. But how much of what you hear in TV ads can you believe? Tonight, we're putting John Culberson through the truth meter.

Conventional political wisdom suggests incumbents can actually help challengers by attacking them on television. It elevates challengers to a near equal. That's not what Culberson is trying to do with this spot.

"Why is Michael Skelly running a false and negative campaign against John Culberson? To hide his liberal record," the ad says.

Voters may not like negative ads, but this is the stuff that gets the truth meter working.

"Michael Skelly made his millions on the backs of taxpayers," the ad continues.

Skelly made millions from his work with a wind energy company that did receive tax breaks. It's true, but not so true to say he made his millions on the backs of taxpayers. Skelly made his money when the company was sold to private investors.

"Worse, he's received tens of thousands of dollars from Wall Street bankers who created this problem," the ad maintains.

Also true, but the truth meter wavers a little bit, because it's not the whole truth. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, banks, finance and investment firms have given Michael Skelly more than $178,000 for this campaign, but they've given Culberson $76,000 this campaign, and more than $300,000 in his career. That wasn't in the ad.

"We have a choice. John Culberson supported the mortgage reform bill that would've help prevent this crisis," the ad promises.

We checked with Culberson's campaign on this. The ad is talking about a 2005 bill Culberson voted for. It ultimately stalled in Congress. Culberson says it would've helped prevent the mortgage crisis. A well-known conservative think tank called the bill "a world class failure."

The truth meter is confused.

"I'm John Culberson and I approved this message," the ad concludes.

In fairness, Culberson has a far longer record in Washington, which makes it easier to put his claims through the truth meter and harder to pick just one vote or program out from the thousands he's considered in Washington.

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