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WaPo Fact Checker: Dem Claims About Cotton Are “Phony As A Three-Dollar Bill”

Updated: Apr 13

Senate Majority PAC — a political action committee run by the former employees of  Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Al Gore, John Kerry, and the Clintons — has released a new ad that slams Rep. Tom Cotton. However, in typical Reid-Gore-Kerry-Clinton fashion, the ad plays fast-and-loose with the facts. Actually, that’s being generous: this ad just makes stuff up.

The ad begins with a falsehood about Congressman Cotton, stating that Cotton “got paid handsomely working for insurance companies.” To support the claim, the ad cites this Politico story that doesn’t even address this question. The ad’s claim is flatly untrue: Congressman Cotton never worked for any insurance companies. In fact, Cotton worked with the Federal Housing Authority on a consulting basis to make the agency more efficient. Most Arkansans would probably view this as a noble task. I suppose Harry Reid and his allies disagree.

Unfortunately, the falsehoods don’t stop there: the ad recycles three additional false claims about Cotton’s voting record, namely that Cotton wants to “end Medicare’s guarantee, giving billions in profits to insurance companies” while “costing seniors $6,000 more a year.” These are claims that have already been debunked by the fact checkers at The Washington Post — and they’ve now been debunked again.

On “ending Medicare’s guarantee,” fact-checker Glenn Kessler writes this morning:

As we have noted before, Senate Majority PAC seems stuck in a time warp on this talking point, referring back to an older version of the House Republican plan to transform the health-care system for the elderly by offering beneficiaries help in buying private insurance, known as “premium support.” The plan, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), was substantially changed in 2012 to include an option for seniors to keep the traditional fee-for-service Medicare plan if they preferred. So the “guarantee” is now there.

In other words, this most recent ad is making claims based on an old version of the Ryan Plan that existed before Tom Cotton was even in Congress — a version of the Ryan Plan that was amended before Cotton ever stepped foot in the halls of the Capitol.

As for “giving billions in profits to insurance companies?” That claim comes from a New Republic story and is based on an analysis by an Obama campaign adviser. Kessler notes that the author of the study itself said it’s an “oversimplification” to say that the Ryan Plan “would take your money and give to the insurance companies for their profits.” But, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not still good campaign fodder!

Finally, as for whether or not the plan would increase costs for seniors by $6,000, Kessler says:

Such estimates are highly speculative. Even if enacted—unlikely as long as Democrats control the presidency or at least one house of Congress—the Republican plan would not go into effect for at least 10 years. So readers should simply ignore such hard-and-fast claims of specific cost increases.

To conclude, Kessler gives the ad “four Pinocchios,” WaPo’s lowest possible rating for accuracy. Kessler says none of the allegations are accurate, and speculates that this line of attack is based on polling data instead of actual fact:

None of the allegations made about Cotton or his policies are factually correct. In straining to somehow tie Cotton to insurance companies, Senate Majority PAC has managed to turn a job that Democrats might celebrate (developing a better functioning government program!) into a negative. The Medicare claims are so stale—and so repeatedly discredited—we can assume that polling indicates that the language is effective in moving voters, despite its falsity.
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