Nice, But Not Enough: WaPo's Kessler Gives 'Four Pinocchios' to Dems' Koch Bros. Ad Claim

March 14th, 2014 4:13 PM

Washington Post "Fact Checker" blogger Glenn Kessler has given "Four Pinocchios" ("a whopper") to a pro-Democratic group's political ad opposing the U.S. Senate candidacy of Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy. The claim: The Koch Brothers, who are prominent financial supporters of the pro-GOP group Americans for Prosperity, want to protect, in the ad's words, “tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas.”

Unfortunately, I have been told that Kessler's post did not make the paper's print edition; to no one's surprise, the Post has a tendency to give Kessler posts which fact-check Republicans greater print edition visibility. Additionally, at least one other Post writer and career race-baiter Al Sharpton have praised the anti-Koch ad and the strategy behind it. The likelihood that either will acknowledge Kessler's debunking is extremely low. Here are the key paragraphs from Kessler's work (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Democrats claim the Koch brothers want to ‘protect tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas’



... (The pro-Democratic group Senate Majority PAC's) claim is based on the equivalent of a complex bank shot in pool. See if you can follow the ball.

In 2012, in a procedural vote, Senate Republicans blocked a bill called the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would have ... eliminated a standard corporate deduction for moving expenses if those expenses turned out to stem from moving jobs overseas. Somehow, in the ad, this is wrongly translated into “tax cuts” for sending jobs overseas. But let’s put that to the side for the moment.

Meanwhile, the well-known Republican group, Americans for Tax Reform, in 2012 received $350,000 for its 501(c)(4) nonprofit arm from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a group that dispenses political funds on behalf of the Koch brothers.

That same year, ATR raised $30.9 million for its 501(c)(4). In other words, the Koch contribution was about 1 percent — a pittance in that year. ...

... we could find no evidence that ATR ever took a position on this bill (the "Bring Jobs Home Act"), which after all is supposedly the reason that Senate Majority PAC says saving this “tax cut” is a central part of the Koch agenda. Indeed, Ryan Ellis, ATR’s policy director, told The Fact Checker: “I’ve never heard of that bill, so I can tell you with some confidence that we don’t have a position on it.”

... “We advocate for a tax system that does not have carve-outs for anyone — a direct contrast to the assertion in the ad,” said Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for Koch Industries. She added that the company has never lobbied on moving deductions.

... Upon examination, this claim crumbles into dust. The ad not only mischaracterizes an ordinary tax deduction as a special “tax cut” but then it falsely asserts that “protecting” this tax break is part of the Koch agenda. It turns out this claim is based on a tenuous link to an organization that never even took a position on the legislation in question.

We often have been critical of AFP ads, and we realize Democrats want to fight back against an onslaught of attacks. But if you want to join a gun fight, don’t fire blanks.

Actually, Glenn, they don't mind firing blanks as long as they can make their audience believe they're real bullets.

Media Research Center's Tim Graham has helpfully provided examples of a well-known MSNBC hack and a WaPo homer running with the false Koch ad claim.

Thursday night, MSNBC's Sharpton cited the "Out-of-state billionaires spending millions to rig the system and elect Bill Cassidy" portion of the ad.

Hades will freeze over before Sharpton recognizes the ad's false nature.

A Thursday morning post by WaPo Plumline blogger Greg Sargent ("Why Dems are tying Republicans to the Koch brothers"), which included a video of the ad itself, fairly oozed with admiration for the anti-Koch brothers ad and the Democratic Party's smear campaign in general (italics are his):

... this is all about creating a framework within which voters can be made to understand the actual policy agenda Republicans are campaigning on. This is what the Bain attacks on Mitt Romney were all about: Dem focus groups showed voters simply didn’t believe Romney would cut entitlements (per the Paul Ryan plan) while cutting taxes on the rich. The Bain narrative made Romney’s actual priorities more comprehensible.

The Koch attacks are designed to do something similar. They aren’t really about the Kochs. They are a proxy for the one percent, a means through which to tap into a general sense that the economy remains rigged in favor of the very wealthy.

Sargent is misidirecting. He knows darned well that citing the Kochs follows Alinsky Rule 12: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Just as they did with Romney and Bain. And never mind what is and isn't true.

A conscientious WaPo newsroom editor would recognize Kessler's debunking and demand that Sargent revise his post accordingly. Don't hold your breath.

Tim has told me that Kessler's fact-check did not make the paper's print edition, but that one involving Wisconsin Congressman and 2012 Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan did make this past Sunday's dead-tree publication. The Post's E.J. Dionne added his own pile-on, which also made it to print.

At issue was Ryan's relay of a story at last week's CPAC gathering about a boy who "didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids ... because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him."

It turns out that Ryan's source, Eloise Anderson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, misstated the story at a congressional hearing, presenting it as if she had spoken directly with the boy. She now says that she relayed what she had seen in a television interview.

Even though Ryan has apologized for the reference in his speech and did not deliberately tell a false story, Kessler still gave him "Four Pinocchios."

My usually incompetent and occasionally accursed Chicago Cubs will win the World Series before we see an apology from the Dem's Senate Majority PAC for the lie in their Louisana anti-Koch ad.

Cross-posted at