Ad Wars Are Fierce As Florida's Primary Approaches

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Some of the hottest primary contests left before November's midterm elections are coming up this Tuesday in Florida. And that has led to some particularly tough (and not always accurate) TV ads from Democrats and Republicans alike. Weekend Edition guest host Rachel Martin talked with Aaron Sharockman, a staff writer for the nonpartisan fact-check website PolitiFact.com, about the red hot ad wars in the Sunshine State.

Sharockman, who has covered government and politics for the St. Petersburg Times, wrote about the Florida ads for PolitiFact. Here's what he had to report, and some of the ads that PolitiFact checked:

Fueled by unprecedented amounts of money and a bottomless barrel of attacks, the primary campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate have trapped Floridians in two escalating TV ad wars as next Tuesday's vote rapidly approaches.

In the Republican primary for governor, self-made millionaire Rick Scott is carpeting television screens with accusations that Attorney General Bill McCollum voted in Congress to raise taxes and fees 42 times.

And McCollum and his advocates are claiming in ads that Scott, a former health care executive, is profiting off porn, illegal immigrants and fraud.

In the Senate race, Democrats Jeff Greene and Kendrick Meek are using their 30-second spots to debate who, essentially, is a bigger crook.

And that may be putting it kindly.

Yolk's On You

Take the Scott commercial about McCollum's record on taxes.

The ad starts with an egg breaking on the ground, "Once, could be a mistake," a narrator says. Then two more eggs break. "Two or three times? Bad luck."

Then the eggs really start pouring. "But 42 times?

"Bill McCollum voted for higher taxes and fees 42 times while he was in Congress."

Here is what's true about the ad: McCollum voted for legislation that increased taxes — most notably the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which increased employment, airport, cigarette and telephone taxes.

Here is what's not true: Scott overstates McCollum's record by double-, triple- and in one case quadruple-counting certain tax votes. Scott then fails to explain that two votes to increase taxes were actually votes to extend existing taxes.

And, perhaps most brazenly, Scott includes four votes that he says increased taxes from a 1997 bill that actually cut taxes by $240 billion.

Highlights Of Tuesday's Other Primaries

— Alaska: Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski faces a challenge from Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller, a favorite of former Gov. Sarah Palin and Tea Party enthusiasts.

— Arizona: Sen. John McCain has been challenged for the GOP Senate nomination by former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

PolitiFact Florida rated Scott's tax claim Barely True, noting that Scott takes a fact — that McCollum voted for tax increases while in Congress — and uses it to create a misleading reality for voters.

Money, Money, Everywhere

The money pouring into the Florida races for governor and Senate, and to a lesser extent the competitive primaries for attorney general, have created hours of television savaging for voters to sort through.

Scott and the group supporting him, Let's Get To Work, have spent almost $35 million on television this summer. McCollum and his supporters have pumped in close to $13 million.

In mailers and on television, Scott has questioned McCollum's anti-abortion credentials, noting that McCollum has taken money from lobbyists for the pro-abortion-rights group Planned Parenthood.

The truth: McCollum received $2,000 from a D.C. firm that lobbied for Planned Parenthood. The stretch: The donations came before the firm worked for Planned Parenthood, and the same firm donated money, more in most cases, to Republicans and anti-abortion leaders such as former President George W. Bush, Sens. Trent Lott and Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader John Boehner. PolitiFact Florida gave Scott's claims a Pants on Fire! rating.

In another ad, Scott's group Let's Get To Work said McCollum's use of the state airplane was labeled a "misuse of state resources." That's true, but the line was included only in a draft report and not the final audit, and McCollum was cleared of wrongdoing after a state ethics investigation. PolitiFact Florida ruled Barely True.

On the other side, McCollum, and a political action group he's raising money for, are saying Scott is profiting off porn.

Kind of. Maybe. Or in PolitiFact-speak: Barely True.

Scott has invested in a company that owns a Latino social networking website. That website, in turn, has a partnership with Playboy Mexico.

But Scott doesn't own the company, as McCollum has said, and isn't involved with company decisions. The company isn't a porn company, but has a partnership with Playboy.

Meek And Greene

The manipulations of the truth aren't all that different in the Democratic Senate primary between Greene, a self-funded billionaire, and Meek, a congressman from South Florida.

Meek has consistently attacked Greene for making hundreds of millions of dollars by betting that banks wrote mortgages that ultimately would lead to foreclosure. In one ad, Meek shows voters the "real" Jeff Greene.

"Became a billionaire on Wall Street betting middle-class families would lose their homes. Helped fuel the economic meltdown. Warren Buffett called Greene's scheme 'financial weapons of mass destruction.' "

Meek oversteps when talking about Buffett.

Buffett made the comment in 2003, while Greene didn't even start making the trades, called credit default swaps, until 2006. Buffett's assistant said the influential money man was never referring to Greene, despite how Meek's ad might make it sound. (It's worth noting that in a new ad, Meek has toned down the Greene-Buffett connection).

Greene, on the other hand, has tromped out allegations that Meek has been labeled corrupt by a Washington group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Greene is right that Meek makes a list of corrupt candidates. But there's something he leaves out.

Greene is on the list, too.

The Truth-O-Meter saw both claims the same way: False.

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