PolitiFact Cries Foul on Zelenik's Black Attack


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A couple weeks back, Pith noted the level of absurdity with which 6th District GOP hopeful Lou Ann Zelenik attacked her opponent, Republican Diane Black, for not voting hard enough to stop the crazy train of ObamaCare from going off the rails and murdering truth, justice and the American way with its socialist death panels. We thought Zelenik was just being Zelenik, had a laugh, and moved on.

In response, Zelenik's campaign manager, Jay Heine, sent Pith an email to inform us that were we were off base with our analysis. "I think you missed the point," wrote Heine. "What we were pointing out was that while Diane has voted to repeal Obamacare she has voted to fund it several times. Our point to the voters that overwhelmingly disapprove of Obamacare is that Diane is not really serious about repealing Obamacare because she continues to vote to fund it."

The debate has since been taken up (and hopefully shut down) by PolitiFact, which has deemed Zelenik's claims patently false, mainly because reality disagrees with her campaign claims.

Not only was Black not a member of the House of Representatives during the 2010 vote over the Affordable Care Act, but the nature of the legislation mandated automatic spending in lieu of congressional approval — caveats ignored by Zelenik's campaign.

From PolitiFact (emphasis added):

The law bypassed the normal appropriations process and provided nearly $105 billion in mandatory funding, or "direct spending" as it’s known in budget parlance, over a number of years for some of the new programs. Put simply, that means money for the programs is included in the law and that it must be spent on those programs.

Other provisions authorized appropriations for the new programs but did not provide the money directly. In these cases, funding must be provided through subsequent congressional votes during the annual appropriations process, when specific budgetary resources being provided are determined. That is how the appropriations process usually works.

The $105 billion in mandatory funding is automatic and cannot be stopped unless Congress specifically votes to end it. [Rep. Steve] King offered an amendment to do just that in February 2011, but the GOP-controlled House Rules Committee concluded the measure violated the rules for spending bills. The committee blocked the bill from receiving a vote on the House floor.

[Rep. Michelle] Bachmann has since offered legislation to convert the mandatory spending to an authorization, which would allow Congress to stop it. Black is one of 96 cosponsors of that legislation, which has not yet received a vote on the House floor.

Unlike Bachmann and [Rep. Steve] King, Black did vote for series of short-term "continuing resolutions" to fund the government at existing levels.

But does voting for those "continuing resolutions" constitute support of ObamaCare? Did Black, who voted more than two dozen times to repeal and de-fund ObamaCare, fail in her duties as a true conservative? Heine seems to think so, and told the website that "Our standpoint is Congress has the ability to defund or fund anything — that is where the spending authority from the federal government originates from," adding "Our standpoint is our opponent needs to take a stronger stance on this and work to defund it."

Norman Ornstein, a congressional watchdog for the American Enterprise Institute, didn't parse words in his disagreement with this notion. PolitiFact reports Ornstein called the claims "not credible," and "absurd."

"Voting to keep the government running — which means keeping DOD (Department of Defense) in operation, keeping the Social Security checks coming, keeping the air traffic system operating, and so on — is not tantamount to voting for health care," said Ornstein. "It is a huge stretch."

The falsehoods in question derive partly from various attack materials financed by Citizens 4 Ethics in Government, a SuperPAC founded by Andy Miller, Zelenik's former campaign finance chairman, according to Knox News. The group has spent a whopping $172,000 on various radio and television advertisements that attempt to paint Black as a closet liberal who secretly supports ObamaCare. It's quite the sizable chunk of change to create a narrative of how Candidate A can screw over the poor better than Candidate B, but then, since local school board races and municipal tax measures receive funding from similar groups, hyperbole in a congressional race is somehow comforting.


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