Archive: Fact Checker

Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 10/25/2009

Fact Checker: Is that $7,800 number accurate?

Earlier this month, the GOP launched two television ads claiming that that Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds' support for a statewide gas tax and federal cap-and-trade legislation would result in $7,800 in additional taxes per Virginia family every four years.

Deeds (D-Bath) has fired back, debuting his own ad in southwest Virginia that called on Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell to "knock off the lies" about the Democrat's support for the cap-and-trade bill. So who is right and how did McDonnell reach that $7,800 number?

McDonnell's $7,800-figure ads were based primarily on two assumptions. The first is that Deeds would support a 20-cent-per-gallon state gas tax to raise the $1 billion he has said is needed for road and transit improvements. Deeds has yet to support such an increase.

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 10/18/2009

Fact Check: Fueling the Debate Over Taxes

In a campaign that has lately shifted the debate to taxes, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic Party candidate for governor, says Republican candidate Robert F. McDonnell is exaggerating the potential cost that Deeds' proposals would cost Virginia's families.

Leaving aside the GOP's questionable claim that Deeds' total tax tab would amount to about $7,800 per family -- which would require yet another foray into the thicket of computations and counter-computations of the impact of cap-and-trade regulation on American consumers -- let's focus for the moment on the bill for transportation.

Deeds says Virginia needs at least $1 billion in new revenues every year to fix its transportation woes.

He does not specify where the new money will come from, other than to say that he will not use any money that now supports the state's public schools. He tells a scrum of reporters that he will not raise any taxes that go to the state's general fund, such as sales and income taxes. But he promises in writing that, as governor, he would enact a bipartisan, comprehensive transportation plan, "even if" it includes new taxes, to fix "a multibillion-dollar backlog."

For taking this stand, Deeds has won plaudits from some, including the editorial page of The Washington Post. The Post praised Deeds for "political guts" in acknowledging that taxpayers must foot the bill for "tens of billions of dollars in new revenue." The same page dismissed McDonnell's plan, which spurns any new taxes for roads, "as phony-baloney."

Yet when McDonnell accused Deeds during a recent debate -- and now in ads that began airing Oct. 10 -- of supporting "another billion dollars in taxes" or a "billion dollar tax increase," Deeds said McDonnell was lying.

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Posted at 9:21 AM ET, 10/11/2009

Fact-Checker: Did McDonnell Support Dropping Mammograms From Health Plans?

It was an alarming advertisement, claiming Virginia's former attorney general supported a bill that would have allowed employers to drop mammograms and cancer screenings from health care plans -- made more alarming by the claim that Robert F. McDonnell was one of only nine attorneys general in the U.S. to do so.

The radio ad, circulated this month by Democratic state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, noted that his Republican opponent McDonnell was one of the nine who had not signed on to a 2006 letter opposing federal legislation that would have allowed employers to not carry such state-mandated benefits.

McDonnell's campaign says the attorney general was also opposed to the legislation, but didn't receive the draft letter. It was sent to the office of his chief deputy, William C. Mims, on April 21, 2006, a Friday, the campaign said. The deadline was Monday, April 24, and the letter was sent to Congress on Tuesday.

That weekend, McDonnell was in Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and Shenandoah Valley, working and spending time with his family, his campaign said.

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Posted at 4:41 PM ET, 09/30/2009

Virginia Notebook: Wilder Again Plays His Hand Alone

It's one of the most popular parlor games in Virginia politics: guessing who, if anyone, will get former Democratic governor L. Douglas Wilder's endorsement.

This year, the game came to a swift end when Wilder announced last week that he would sit out the Virginia governor's race.

The decision itself wasn't shocking (he had done the same in prior years), but it was surprising this year considering he had been courted by President Obama and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, his party's national chairman.

Wilder said in a lengthy statement that he could not endorse Democrat R. Creigh Deeds in his race over Republican Robert F. McDonnell because Deeds supports a tax increase to pay for road and transit improvements ("This is not the time in our Commonwealth to talk about any kind of tax increase") and boasts a pro-gun record ("I do not see how endorsing a proposal to have more handguns brought into our cities and suburban areas qualifies as any type of urban renewal plan").

Wilder, an outspoken and sometimes combative politician who has a place in history books as the nation's first elected black governor, doesn't mind breaking with his party. He relishes the sport of keeping everyone guessing about what he's going to do -- and his pattern, if there is one, is to wait until the end and try to figure out who is going to win.

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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 09/27/2009

Fact-Checker: How Much Does Virginia Spend on Classrooms?

Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell says Virginia needs to pony up and increase the amount it spends in public school classrooms, arguing that administrative offices get far too much funding. Many Virginia schools say they spend enough -- 65 percent or more -- on teaching. Who's right?

The quick answer: It depends on whom you ask. The federal government says Virginia spends 61 percent on classroom instruction; Virginia school officials say they spend closer to 65 percent. The difference comes down to a narrow interpretation of whether things like libraries and guidance counselors constitute classroom instruction.

Earlier this month, McDonnell, a former state delegate and Virginia attorney general, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who is running for re-election, unveiled the fourth part of their state education policy proposal -- a plan to boost classroom coffers by $480 million by upping the required funding amount for school instruction to 65 percent of all operating budgets.

The extra money for classrooms would largely be taken from administrative budgets over four years. The result: $12 million in extra instruction money for Alexandria, $89 million for schools in Fairfax County and, as McDonnell put it, a boost to Virginia teachers' salaries, which ranks near the middle in average salaries and near the bottom in student-teacher ratios, according to statistics released last year by the Washington-based National Education Association.

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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 09/20/2009

Fack Checker: McDonnell and School Funding

For some time now, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D) has been bashing Robert F. McDonnell, his Republican opponent in the governor's race, for his stance on school funding.

Deeds and fellow Democrats accuse McDonnell of wanting to raid K-12 education funding to fix the transportation mess in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
In a press release earlier this month, the Deeds campaign said McDonnell "has pledged to take $5.4 billion from our schools to pay for roads."

Deeds made similar claims in an Aug. 21 speech at George Mason University and again at Wednesday's debate sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce in McLean.

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Posted at 12:29 PM ET, 09/17/2009

Fact Check: Jobs

In his closing statement during today's debate, Deeds said McDonnell "never wrote a bill to create a job." Afterward, a reporter asked McDonnell about this accusation.

Here's how he responded: "I carried the historic welfare reform bill in 1995. Do you know what that bill did? It put women to work. It created the transportation and health-care benefits and tax support so that women could go back to work, and then a year after that I introduced a tax credit bill to give businesses the ability to receive tax credits for hiring people."

Okay, so neither exactly created jobs. But the welfare bill did require people to work to get state welfare benefits. We wrote more on that bill and McDonnell's repeated references to it in this campaign.

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Posted at 11:55 AM ET, 09/17/2009

Fact Check: Working Women

Here's the thesis again. Creigh Deeds just went after Bob McDonnell for not supporting working women, and Bob McDonnell reacted pretty powerfully.

"I'm offended," McDonnell said, that Deeds would say he doesn't support working women when his wife and daughters, including a daughter who served as a platoon leader in Iraq, were sitting in the front row here at the Capital One center. Men and women, McDonnell said, should be judged on merit, on their character and "on their love for Virginia."

In his graduate thesis 20 years ago, he described working women and feminists as "detrimental" to the family. McDonnell also voted against a resolution in the House of Delegates in support of equal pay for women.

McDonnell said in response to inquires about the thesis: "Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older." He said that his views on family policy were best represented by his 1995 welfare reform legislation, and that he "worked to include child day care in the bill so women would have greater freedom to work." What he wrote in the thesis on women in the workplace, he said, "was simply an academic exercise and clearly does not reflect my views."

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Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 09/17/2009

Fact Check: I'm Not Going To Raise Taxes

That's what Creigh Deeds just said when asked point-blank by David Gregory. But then he said he wants to find new sources of revenue for transportation.

How do you find new revenue without raising taxes? Deeds also has said in the past that he is open to new taxes, so today's remark sounds like a departure.

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Posted at 11:32 AM ET, 09/17/2009

Fact Check: Cap-and-Trade

This has become a common accusation from Bob McDonnell: That Creigh Deeds supports cap-and-trade. McDonnell uses as an example the fact that a larger employer and Deeds's back yard in western Virginia, paper manufacturer MeadWestvaco, supports him and not Deeds.

Deeds never has said he supports the bill in Congress now. Today, Deeds said it more clearly than he's done before: "I don't support the bill." He supports "long-term" efforts to thwart climate change, but he won't support any bill that has the effect of increasing fuel prices during a recession.

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Posted at 11:19 AM ET, 09/17/2009

Fact Check: Contraception for Married Couples

Well it didn't take long for the thesis to come up. By way of contrast to what Bob McDonnell wrote in his controversial graduate school thesis in 1989, Creigh Deeds just said that he didn't say, at age 34, that the state should get involved in regulating contraception for married couples.

But neither did McDonnell.

McDonnell did say that the Supreme Court was "radical" and "illogical" when it ruled that the government cannot intrude into married relationships -- and, later, unmarried relationships -- by barring access to contraception.

He also says now that he does not support banning contraception.

Here's a look at McDonnell's legislative record:

As a state lawmaker from Virginia Beach from 1992 to 2006, McDonnell voted for a bill to give pharmacists a "conscience clause" allowing them to not fill prescriptions. He also voted for a bill barring the morning-after pill from public college health clinics and against a bill that would have declared the morning-after pill and anything like it to be contraception.

We're not aware of any legislation to keep contraception away from married couples.

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Posted at 11:03 AM ET, 09/17/2009

Fact Check: Governor's Opportunity Fund

Good morning from Tysons Corner, folks! In his opening remarks, State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds just brought up one of our favorite topics, the Governor's Opportunity Fund, charging that his opponent, Republican Robert F. McDonnell, has voted against putting money into what most folks call the state's "deal-closing" kitty to bring businesses and jobs to Virginia.

Here are some of the facts.

Both gubernatorial candidates have called for doubling the state appropriation for the Governor's Opportunity Fund to $20 million, and both say the potential for economic growth is big.

But Democrats also charge that McDonnell, as a House delegate from Virginia Beach earlier this decade, voted three times to cut the fund. And Republicans argue that Gov. Tim Kaine (D) isn't using the fund to its full potential, letting millions sit unused.

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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 09/13/2009

Fact-Checker: McDonnell and Energy Rate Hikes

If you believe a new television advertisement circulating in Roanoke and Bristol this week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell supported $180 million in electric power rate hikes while he served as attorney general.

But while it's true his office did recommend rate hikes, the attorney general's Office of Consumer Counsel actually supported the increases because it was legally obligated to weigh in by state law. And the recommendations from McDonnell's office were in line with the final numbers eventually approved by independent state regulators.

Deeds launched the new TV ad Thursday, which questions McDonnell's support for the power rate increases for the Appalachian Power Co. between 2006 and 2008, when he served as attorney general.

In the ad, a narrator says: "In tough times, what kind of politician sides with Appalachian Power? Bob McDonnell. He recommended $180 million dollars in rate increases that would cost $360 dollars for each of us. McDonnell even said the utility companies were entitled to it. Entitled to it? Creigh Deeds is one of us."

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 09/ 7/2009

Fact Checker: Deeds Wants to Clarify Cap-and-Trade Views

After reading our Fact Checker on whether state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds supports cap-and-trade despite worries that it could eliminate 1,500 jobs at one of the biggest employers in his backyard, Mike Gehrke, communications director for Deeds' campaign, took exception to the statement that Deeds' position is unclear.

So, by way of clarification, Gehrke offers some remarks -- and a shoutout to Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb -- that Deeds made during the June debate:


"Climate change is a serious issue and the people in Washington ought to be dealing on the issue of global warming," Deeds said. "Let's face it, in a recession any legislation that's going to call for an energy price increase for consumers or put Virginia or American businesses at a disadvantage is not good policy. I'm confident again that Senators Webb and Warner will protect our interests. On cap and trade I will tell you that I think Congressman Boucher did the yeoman's work to protect Virginia's business. I'm confident that Senators Warner and Webb will do more."

Now, in case you're wondering what the yeoman's work was, Gehrke also offered two items on Rep. Rick Boucher's efforts to create a cap-and-trade bill that would reduce greenhouse gases without inflicting too much pain on Virginians.

One is an article from The Bristol Herald Courier describing Boucher's rationale for backing the bill. Boucher told the newspaper he felt he had little choice but to back some sort of cap-and-trade measure, now that the Supreme Court has upheld environmental laws that view carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as pollutants. Such regulation is unavoidable.

In a piece in the Roanoke Times, Boucher discusses his efforts to help craft a bill that grants utilities offsets on the limits to invest in pollution controls.

Clearer now about Deeds' views? Or Boucher's?

-- Fredrick Kunkle

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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 09/ 4/2009

Fact-Checker: Does Deeds Back Bill That Could Kill His Neighbors' Jobs?

While state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds and fellow Democrats have been trying to focus the governor's race on Robert F. McDonnell's grad school thesis, McDonnell and fellow Republicans have been working to return everyone's attention to jobs.

The Republican Party of Virginia recently blasted him for supporting a ground-breaking bill in Congress that hopes to slow global warming by imposing limits on carbon-based emissions. McDonnell, while giving the GOP's response to President Barack Obama's weekly radio address, said the bill's proposed cap-and-trade regime would jeopardize 1,500 jobs in Deeds' district alone, a charge echoed by the state GOP.

Is it true that Deeds is supporting the bill? And is it true the bill could effectively shut down MeadWestvaco Corp's plant in Covington, Va.?

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 08/30/2009

Fact Check: Is Economic Fund a Cure-All?

If you listen to state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D) and ex-attorney general Robert F. McDonnell (R), a little-understood fund run by the governor's office is a quick ticket to economic prosperity in Virginia.

Both gubernatorial candidates have called for doubling the state appropriation for the Governor's Opportunity Fund to $20 million, and both say the potential for economic growth is big.

But Democrats also charge that McDonnell, as a House delegate from Virginia Beach earlier this decade, voted three times to cut the fund. And Republicans argue that Gov. Tim Kaine (D) isn't using the fund to its full potential, letting millions sit unused.

Neither claim is completely accurate.

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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 08/23/2009

Fact Check: Did Deeds Go Back on Promise to Stay Away From Abortion?

Virginia's two most recent Democratic governors made sure to shy away from the abortion debate during their respective campaigns, a plan that worked well politically in the state's more conservative strongholds.

At first, it appeared that state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds would follow suit. So when Deeds (D-Bath) began a new effort this month to attack his Republican gubernatorial opponent's stance on abortion, it was a noteworthy change for a politician who in recent weeks decried the "politics of division." Robert F. McDonnell, a former Virginia attorney general, has said he is against abortion in almost every instance, including rape and incest, except when the mother's life is in danger.

"I think it's an area that shows a clear distinction between us," Deeds said in an interview earlier this month with The Post's Rosalind S. Helderman and Sandhya Somashekhar. "I'm a moderate guy, and I've been a consensus-builder my entire career. ... My opponent is the guy who has pursued a socially driven ideological agenda who now is masquerading as a centrist."

Days later, at a campaign stop at the Northern Virginia Community College campus in Annandale, Deeds reiterated his push to talk about the differences between McDonnell and himself.

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Posted at 9:27 AM ET, 08/16/2009

Fact Check: Did McDonnell Turn His Back on Unemployed?

To accuse a Virginian politician of turning his back on Martinsville, the beleagured Southside mill town whose unemployment rate hit 21.6 percent in June, is almost like a slur.

But that's what the gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D) did last week, saying that Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell "stood against the workers in the area when textile plants shut down and left nearly 3,000 workers jobless."

As a former delegate, McDonnell voted against "a bipartisan emergency relief package" that would have provided enhanced jobless benefits, including health insurance, for laid-off Martinsville textile workers, the Deeds campaign said.

The allegation is accurate--but also deserves some context.

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Posted at 12:10 PM ET, 05/26/2009

Live Blog: Virginia FREE Luncheon

Good Afternoon. Today we come to you live from the Ritz-Carlton Tyson's Corner, where all four men seeking the governor's mansion in Virginia are about to begin addressing a roomful of business leaders and electeds for the Virginia Free lunch. The room is packed. Folks are now munching on salad. And Clayton Roberts is now reading the lengthy list of influential folks in the audience. We'll get started with a live blog in just a couple minutes, when the speechifying begins and keep with it as long as our technology holds out.

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Posted at 6:11 PM ET, 05/20/2009

Fact Checker: Dominion Rate Increase

All three Democrats running for governor claimed in yesterday's debate that they oppose Dominion Virginia Power's March proposal to raise electricity rates 6.9 percent to pay for equipment, salaries, plant construction and conservation projects.

That's not exactly true.

Only state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds called on the State Corporation Commission to reject the rate increase. His rivals Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran did not.

Deeds immediately issued a press release after Dominion announced the proposal. "This is the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, and it's simply not the time to ask Virginia families to pay more for their monthly energy bill,'' he said. "It's time to put the middle class first again. I call on the Virginia State Corporation Commission to reject this rate increase on Virginia's working families."

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Posted at 2:47 PM ET, 05/19/2009

Moran: Helped Bring Payday Lending in Virginia?

McAuliffe just accused Moran of supporting legislation that allowed payday lending into the state.

It's true, but at the time most lawmakers thought the bill would regulate the industry and prevent it from preying too deeply on the poor.

Moran voted for a bill in 2002 that opened Virginia to payday lending. Lawmakers from both parties thought the bill would license and regulate the industry, but instead payday operators quickly multiplied.

Three years later, Moran did vote to enact some of the nation's most stringent reforms of the payday loan industry, though many opponents did not think it went far enough.

Since 1996, Moran has taken $30,200 in donations from lending or consumer credit companies.

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Posted at 2:26 PM ET, 05/19/2009

McAuliffe: No to Dominion Money?

McAuliffe again claimed today that he is accepting no money from Dominion, the state's biggest energy provider. While technically true, McAuliffe didn't volunteer (but opponent Creigh Deeds did in his rebuttal) that he held a campaign event at the home of a former president of the electric utility. McAuliffe has also accepted money from current and former employees of Dominion.

McAuliffe has not accepted any donations directly from Dominion, but he attended a gathering in his honor last week at the home of Thomas E. Capps, the company's retired president and chief executive officer. Capps donated $2,500 to his campaign. Eva Teig Hardy, a former executive and chief lobbyist for the company, contributed $7,750. Another executive Christopher B. Rivers contributed $1,700.

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Posted at 2:24 PM ET, 05/19/2009

Moran: I Led Efforts on Equality Issues

Answering a question about same-sex marriages, candidate Brian Moran said he led efforts in the state House of Delegates to protect the rights of gays and lesbians in Virginia.

While Moran has made it a major plank of his campaign to overturn a state constitutional amendment passed in 2006 banning same-sex marriages in Virginia, he voted yes to a proposal (put forth by Republican Bob McDonnell, the former delegate and attorney general who will face the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary) urging the Congress to pass a federal constitutional amendment.

Moran says he voted against that proposal too, and his campaign says the one vote in favor was in the middle of the process and does not reflect his true feelings on the issue.

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Posted at 2:23 PM ET, 05/19/2009

McAuliffe: I Created Thousands of Jobs

Terry McAuliffe talked again today about how he has created thousands of jobs, and he made a new claim that many of those jobs are union jobs.

McAuliffe led a home-building company in Florida that did, indeed, create thousands of jobs in the construction trades. And most of those jobs were union.

But McAuliffe never created jobs in Virginia, despite claiming on the campaign trail that he started five businesses here. (McAuliffe did create five businesses in Virginia, but all are investment partnerships registered to his home address in McLean, and none has employees).

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Posted at 2:03 PM ET, 05/19/2009

McAuliffe: Virginia To Lose Federal Highway Dollars?

In our first fact-checker item of today's debate at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, we'll take a look at a statement Terry McAuliffe made, not for the first time, that Virginia could soon lose federal highway dollars if it doesn't find new sources of transportation revenue.

It's true. Part of the discussion about Virginia's transportation crisis has revolved around that that more and more of the state's investment in highways has gone toward maintenance and repair rather than new construction. If the state allows its expenditure on construction to dip too low, it will miss out on federal highway dollars that are available on a matching basis to the states.

Currently, Virginia is eligible for about $1 billion in matching federal dollars, but it must spend about $200 million of its own money to qualify. It's generally viewed as a good bargain -- $4 of federal money for every $1 in state funds. But the state is on a trajectory right now not to have the money to take full advantage of the federal pool.

The alternative is to reduce spending on maintenance, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board tomorrow will propose doing just that in its next six-year transportation improvement program. But that path is fraught with peril too, most leaders say.

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Posted at 3:42 PM ET, 04/22/2009

Fact Checker: Democrats at Candidates' Forum

The three Democrats running for governor have been spending more time participating in debates and forums in recent days, giving them ample opporunity to boast about their records and promise dramatic changes for the state.

But occassionally, those off-the-cuff pronouncements can cross from campaign trail bluster into outright embelishment. And at times that was the case last night, when R. Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran participated in a candidates' forum in Richmond.

As needed, we'll use this space to step in and attempt to set the record straight. Here's what caught our attention:

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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 03/20/2009

Fact Checker: Change McAuliffe Can Believe In

Terry McAuliffe, a Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, released a new 60-second radio ad this week in which in the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee appears to claim some credit for helping get President Obama elected last year.

In his ad, McAuliffe uses Obama's name to make a direct appeal to African-Americans, who make up 20 percent of the state's population and even larger share of the Democratic primary electorate.

"Did you know that Terry McAuliffe fought to protect voting rights and led the effort to give Democrats in our region a stronger voice in deciding the party's presidential nominee?" a female asks in the ad, which is airing on black radio stations in Hampton Roads and Richmond.

"That's right," a male says. "Terry McAuliffe defended our rights and was the leader who brought us together and united the party. And in 2008 our voices were heard when we elected our president, Barack Obama."

But there are ample press accounts and YouTube footage to suggest that McAuliffe, who chaired Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign, was among the handful of Americans late last spring who had not yet acknowledged that Obama had secured the Democratic
nomination.

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