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PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

Jolly, Peters trade charges in U.S. House primary

The two favored GOP candidates in the shortened campaign for the late C.W. Bill Young's U.S. House seat have taken a few shortcuts in their campaign rhetoric, too.

Young's heir apparent, former lobbyist David Jolly, and state Rep. Kathleen Peters have unloaded on each other ahead of the Republican primary Tuesday, questioning each other's platforms, backgrounds and honesty. (Candidate Mark Bircher, a retired Marine, has yet to unleash a direct attack on either.)

Peters very quickly brought up Jolly's past as a Washington lobbyist, pointing out he had "given almost $30,000 to keep Democrats in Congress" in a campaign mailer to voters. That was Mostly True, as Jolly had spent a few years working with multiple congressional politicians, but the flier doesn't mention he had given even more to Republicans.

Jolly was the first to paint Peters as a waffler, saying in his own mailer that the onetime mayor of South Pasadena refused to "take a stand" and demand the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a law that many Republicans want taken off the books completely.

We rated that Mostly False, because Peters had consistently said she didn't support the law, although she wanted to keep specific portions of it, such as not allowing insurance companies to discriminate on the basis of pre-existing conditions. She's since been very sure to use "repeal" in every statement.

In response, Peters held a news conference a few days later to announce Jolly had lobbied "for government-run health care just last year." Peters had found that Jolly had worked for a Virginia company called Faneuil, Inc., which in 2013 opened an Obamacare health exchange call center in Washington state. She first implied he had been lobbying for the call center, then softened her tack to say that since he was being paid by Faneuil, he was making money from Obamacare.

Jolly was never registered in the state of Washington (he says he was lobbying for "transportation interests" in Florida — a plausible explanation because Faneuil helps the state operate the tollbooth system), and the company denied he was involved in Affordable Care Act projects. We rated this one False for a lack of proof.

National Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, endorsed Jolly in the race and said Peters "has a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record — even voting against a ban on sex-selection abortions."

But Peters only voted on three pieces of legislation even remotely connected to abortion. She did vote "no" on banning sex-selection abortions, and another "no" came for a bill that made killing a fetus while committing a crime against a pregnant woman a separate offense. Neither of those bills passed.

The third bill National Right to Life cited was a "yes" vote on a law requiring doctors to take emergency measures to save a child born after a failed attempt to abort it. The group said her "yes" vote, which is what the group advocated, didn't matter because she wasn't one of the bill's 25 co-sponsors. That dubious logic still made her voting record on the issues as National Right to Life described them 66 percent, not 100. Overall, we rated the group's statement Half True.

Peters later boasted in another of her campaign mailers that while she was mayor of South Pasadena, the city "actually reduced the property taxes we collected."

The problem is, the reason tax collections were down is because her 2009-2012 term coincided with the worst effects of the Great Recession. Not only did Peters preside over a $215 million loss in taxable property values, the South Pasadena City Commission raised the city's millage twice in her tenure. That earned her claim a Mostly False.

Jolly's lobbying record returned after he told an audience at a Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce forum on Jan. 6 that he had "never lobbied for offshore oil drilling." He later admitted he had done some 2011 lobbying work for a group called Free Enterprise Nation, which supported an energy bill that promoted expanded drilling, and that he had been in a meeting in which the bill was discussed. But he insisted he didn't lobby for that legislation.

Strict definitions of lobbying rules spell out that as being enough. Any sort of communication about a subject can technically be defined as taking part in the lobbying process. We can't know the truth of his intent, but his explanation that he was "overcomplying" seemed suspect to lobbying researchers we asked. We ruled that one Mostly False.

The statement

David Jolly gave "almost $30,000 to keep Democrats in Congress" as a lobbyist.

Kathleen Peters, Dec. 13 in a campaign mailer

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly True
The total on the flier is $28,622. That sounds like almost $30,000 to us. But Jolly has given even more to Republicans, and he was a staff member to Young for several years. We rate this statement Mostly True.

The statement

Kathleen Peters "refuses to 'take a stand' to repeal Obamacare."

David Jolly, Dec. 13 in a campaign mailer

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly False
Her stance lacked specifics before the mailing came out, but it was always clear she wasn't a staunch Obamacare advocate. We rate the statement Mostly False.

The statement

David Jolly was "lobbying for government-run health care" in 2012.

Kathleen Peters, Dec. 19 in a press conference

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: False
Peters didn't find any specific evidence linking Jolly to the Washington call center project, and we didn't find anything more in our own review of the public records. Due to a lack of evidence, we rate Peters' statement False.

The statement

"State Rep. Kathleen Peters has a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record — even voting against a ban on sex-selection abortions."

National Right to Life, Dec. 31 in a website article

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Half True
Peters voted against two bills ostensibly designed to protect unborn children, but she voted for a third bill that aimed to save the life of children born after failed attempts at abortions. We rate this statement Half True.

The statement

"When I was Mayor of South Pasadena, we actually reduced the property taxes we collected."

Kathleen Peters, Jan. 8 in a campaign mailer

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly False
We found she actually presided over an increase in the millage rate, and tax collections fell because of a drastic reduction in taxable property values. We rate this statement Mostly False.

The statement

"I have never lobbied for offshore oil drilling."

David Jolly, Jan. 6 at a Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce forum

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly False
We can't be sure what happened at the meeting, so it may have happened the way Jolly says. But experts told us the rules mean the way he describes the incident technically counts as lobbying. We rate this statement Mostly False.

Jolly, Peters trade charges in U.S. House primary 01/12/14 [Last modified: Sunday, January 12, 2014 10:13pm]
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