The second ad against independent U.S. Senate hopeful Angus King paid for by Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit arm of a super political action committee co-founded by a former top strategist to President George W. Bush, is backed by a lot of money, but not much fact.

Crossroads GPS’ ad hits King on slashing school funding as governor and working from a seat on a state task force to benefit the wind company he co-founded. Another claim says he “pushed for job-killing tax increases,” but as that’s subjective, we aren’t evaluating it.

There are two big problems. The claim about the school funding cut examines one cut and eschews growth outpacing inflation in school funding over the course of the King administration.

The task force claim is worse. The task force on which King served had to do with offshore wind and tidal power — both of which King’s wind business didn’t deal in.

• “(King) slashed funding for our schools.”

Yes and no. This is a selective claim that picks a one-time $10 million reduction in K-12 payments.

That came in 2002, according to an article then in the Portland Press Herald. Along with that, the University of Maine System got a $3.6 million cut and technical colleges got an $835,000 cut, the story said.

It said the cut was a piece of King’s plan to reduce a $180 million shortfall. Sourcing from Crossroads for a similar claim in a previous ad showed the round of cuts for K-12 education is what was referenced in that ad.

But picking a specific round of cuts isn’t a perfectly honest way to say King “slashed funding.” It’s gamesmanship, as total state education funding increased between the first and last years of the King administration.

Let’s look at a fuller picture, from federal Census data: from 1995 to 2003, state education funding grew from more than $1 billion to nearly $1.6 billion. That means funding outpaced the rate of inflation during that period.

 

Verdict: King certainly did cut education funding in this case, but state education funding increased over his tenure as governor. Omitting that and picking a round of cuts to hit him on is misleading and deserves a truth downgrade.

 

We rate this statement half-true.

• “From his seat on a government task force, King helped his windmill company by recommending taxpayer funding and government loan guarantees.”

This claim is false right from its base, and maliciously so.

The ad cites King’s spot on Maine’s Ocean Energy Task Force. The problem is that Independence Wind, the company he co-founded in 2007 and left before running for Senate, didn’t deal in ocean-based power, the only point of that task force.

“It’s apples and oranges,” said Donald Perkins, president and CEO of the Portland-based Gulf of Maine Research Institute, who co-chaired that task force. “Ludicrous is what it is.”

That task force was established in 2008 by Gov. John Baldacci, who also assembled the Task Force on Wind Power Development in 2007. King didn’t sit on that and wasn’t involved in its operations, according to state Rep. Stacey Fitts, R-Pittsfield, who sat on both the wind power and ocean energy task forces.

If King had been on the wind power task force, it could possibly have helped his business. That panel was tasked mainly with “examination of the regulatory processes, review criteria and financing options” available to land-based wind power, according to a state website.

The Ocean Energy Task Force, the one on which King did sit, had a similar goal for offshore wind and tidal power. It was formed to “recommend solutions to overcome potential economic, technical, regulatory and other obstacles” to development of those sources, according to its 2009 final report. Many recommendations in the report had to do with equating offshore wind’s regulatory framework with that of land-based wind.

As the Crossroads ad suggests, the Ocean Energy Task Force’s final report says government subsidies would likely “increase the pace of development” in ocean energy. But those subsidies wouldn’t be able to help King’s Independence Wind, which was involved in two land-based projects at its peak. Robert Gardiner, King’s partner in the company, called King’s seat on the task force “volunteer work” that “had nothing to do with Independence Wind.”

One Independence Wind project is in the Oxford County town of Roxbury; the other is in Somerset County’s Highland Plantation. Independence Wind got bought out of the Roxbury project, and the Highland Plantation project is on hold, according to MPBN.

“If they’re just trying to say ‘wind in general,’ that’s quite a stretch,” said Fitts, the Republican legislator, of the ad. “At this stage of the campaign, I think all bets are off as far as making a truthful claim.”

Perkins, the research institute CEO, said King did function as a spokesman for offshore power. He certainly did, and there are plenty of videos on YouTube of him speaking about it in 2008 and 2009 to prove that.

“He was promoting the idea of the Gulf of Maine being the Saudi Arabia of ocean energy,” Perkins said. “That was his shtick at the time.”

Verdict: King sat on the task force, but recommendations it made couldn’t have impacted his business. The ad’s claim is a total fabrication, intermingling a task force’s work on a totally different issue and conflating land-based and offshore wind.

We rate this statement false.

Crossroads makes two very misleading statements in the ad, one far worse than the other. While the schools claim has a grain of truth to it, the task force assertion is plucked out of thin air, making it a particularly brazen attempt at misleading Maine’s public.

We rate this ad mostly false.

Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be reached at 621-5632 or at: mshepherd@mainetoday.com