September 19, 2012

Truth Test: Senate candidates tell falsehoods at debate

Republican Charlie Summers, Independent Angus King and Democrat Cynthia Dill all made inaccurate claims during Monday's debate in Lewiston.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

A live-streamed Monday debate at the Franco-American Center in Lewiston was one of the first chances for Mainers to hear the state’s three very different major U.S. Senate candidates square off.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

The first multimedia debate in the race for Maine's open U.S. Senate seat was held Monday, Sept. 17, 2012 at the Franco American Heritage Center in Lewiston. Candidates from left: Angus King, Independent, Charlie Summers, Republican, and Cynthia Dill, Democratic.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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TRUTH TEST is a regular feature of MaineToday Media's campaign coverage in which we cast a critical eye on the truthfulness of advertising and public comments by political candidates.

 all Election 2012 Truth Tests.

On Tuesday, we pulled three claims from the debate — one from each candidate — that sounded questionable to us at the time. Much more was said, however, and these points aren’t representative of the performances of Republican Charlie Summers, Independent Angus King and Democrat Cynthia Dill.

After vetting, we found a Summers claim on health care reform, a King claim on Bath Iron Works’ importance to the Lewiston job market and a Dill claim on Obama-era oil and gas production to be false.

Summers: “Yes, I would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act in total because I believe that the last thing we need is to add another $2 trillion to an already $16 billion debt in this country.”(25:30)

Shortly after Summers said this, King questioned his numbers, saying estimates have said the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, will subtract from the deficit. 

King’s right. Politifact gave Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney a “false” rating when he said Obamacare would add “trillions to our deficits.” The same has to be said for Summers, based on a bad read of an analysis of a Congressional Budget Office estimate

We weren't sure where Summers got the $2 trillion figure, so we reached out to campaign spokesman Drew Brandewie. He cited a blog post at The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, which uses a CBO estimate of the law's gross cost from 2013 to 2022 to estimate the law's cost from 2014 to 2023, saying that it will cost more than $1.9 trillion over that time period.

However, you may notice this estimate started with gross cost. The blog post never says that's money added onto the deficit. Gross cost estimates ignore revenue gains from the law.

If you look about a page deeper than the part of the CBO estimate used by The Weekly Standard, it says repealing coverage provisions would save $890 billion from 2013 to 2022. But it would also cut revenues and up other types of spending by $1 trillion over that time period, upping the federal deficit by $109 billion.

The CBO admits its estimates on this topic aren't gospel because they're based on tenuous estimates of how Obamacare will work, but Summers demonstrates a misinterpretation of their numbers. What he proposes doing, repealing the law, is estimated to increase the deficit.

We rate this statement false.

King: “The last time I checked, Bath Iron Works was the largest employer in Lewiston, so that tells you how important that company is to our state.” (38:30)

Bath Iron Works is a massive regional employer, sure, but at least two organizations, two Lewiston-based health care systems, say they employ far more Lewistonians.

(Continued on page 2)

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