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

PolitiFact Florida: In congressional race, two GOP candidates go on attack

The 13th U.S. Congressional District race is heating up ahead of the Jan. 14 Republican primary, with front-running candidates David Jolly and state Rep. Kathleen Peters taking swipes at each other in dueling mailings. PolitiFact Florida decided to fact-check a claim from each side to see if the statements in the mailers were accurate.

In a flier attacking Peters, Jolly's campaign shows a photo collage of Peters with Democratic challenger Alex Sink and President Barack Obama, with the words, "It's Pinellas County's worst nightmare! … Keeping Obamacare!"

The mailing quotes Peters saying, "I do not think we should take a stand and say absolutely repeal it."

We wanted to know if the flier's charge was accurate.

Peters has been a state representative since 2012 for House District 69, which includes Treasure Island, South Pasadena and Gulfport. We couldn't find any public comments from Peters on the Affordable Care Act before she decided to run for the open U.S. House seat for Congressional District 13.

At a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club forum in St. Petersburg on Dec. 6, Peters fielded a question from an audience member who asked what her position to improve health care was.

"What I can tell you is that I don't like the plan that we currently have to take care of affordable health care. And I don't even think they named it appropriately, and I think it's one of those wolves in sheep's clothing when they call it the Affordable Care Act, because it is not at all affordable," Peters answered. "I do not think that we should take a stand and say absolutely repeal it. Not unless we have a plan and a proposal to replace it." She added she didn't think pre-existing conditions should be a factor in obtaining insurance, and talked about difficulties she had with insurance companies after a surgery. "Is it a problem? Yes, we have to address it," she concluded. "But we can't just repeal it, we have to have a comprehensive plan … something that's affordable, that isn't mandating down and forces people to not have choices."

Jolly, who has been very vocal in his opposition to the law, said he is using the flier to illustrate how he wants to repeal the law and Peters doesn't. The quote he chose, however, doesn't include much context or any indication of Peters' other talking points about Obamacare.

Peters seemed to change the tack of her arguments immediately after the flier was mailed, posting a message on Facebook dealing with Jolly's implications. She began clearly stating she supported repeal of Obamacare in a Dec. 19 news conference.

The mailer attempts to make it appear as if she supports the law, which she didn't do even before clarifying her message. We rate this statement Mostly False.

Peters' campaign has sent its own attack flier to voters, this one looking at Jolly's work as a Washington lobbyist: "Since 2007, David Jolly has given almost $30,000 to keep Democrats in Congress! … (But not a dime to Congressman Bill Young)."

Lobbyists typically work both sides of the aisle in Congress depending on who can most help their causes. We wanted to know if the mailer was telling the full story.

The mailer doesn't say it, but Jolly, a Dunedin native, worked for Young for several years. From 1995 to 2006, Jolly held various positions in Young's office, with a brief break in 2001 when he took six months off to work at a Washington securities firm. In 2002, Young named Jolly his general counsel, a position Jolly held through 2006.

In 2007, Jolly began work as a lobbyist with Washington firm Van Scoyoc Associates. Eventually, he opened his own firm, Three Bridges Advisors. Jolly officially took his name off the Lobby Registry last year in order to run for the vacant House seat.

Peters' flier lists 13 "Jolly Good" Democratic senators and representatives to whom Jolly has given campaign contributions. Among the baker's dozen are Florida's own Sen. Bill Nelson (who received $4,500 in direct contributions and through his PAC, Moving America Forward), Rep. Kathy Castor ($3,600) and former Rep. Allen Boyd ($7,500).

The list includes other Democrats from around the nation, including Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin ($1,000) and late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye ($1,000).

The total listed on the mailing was $28,622, a number PolitiFact Florida confirmed through Federal Elections Commission filings from 2007 to 2013.

What the mailer doesn't mention is that Jolly also gave thousands to Republicans. Some noteworthy recipients include Rep. Gus Bilirakis ($9,350), Rep. Dennis Ross ($4,104), Rep. Richard Nugent ($4,629), Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign ($2,300) and former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez ($1,500). Jolly also gave then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist $500 during his failed Senate bid.

In all, Jolly gave more than $34,000 to Republican politicians, candidates and organizations over the past six years. Peters' flier doesn't mention that. Overall, we rated the flier's claim Mostly True.

This report has been edited for print. Read the full versions at

The statement

"Since 2007, David Jolly has given almost $30,000 to keep Democrats in Congress!"

Kathleen Peters, Dec. 13 in a mailing

The ruling

Politifact ruling: Mostly True
Jolly did give $28,622 to Democrats while he was a Washington lobbyist, but he gave even more to Republicans, and was a longtime Young staffer. We rate the statement Mostly True.

The statement

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

David Jolly, Dec. 13 in a mailing

The ruling

Politifact ruling: Mostly True
Peters has focused more on replacing the law, but she's always said she didn't like it. We rate the statement Mostly False.

PolitiFact Florida: In congressional race, two GOP candidates go on attack 12/29/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 29, 2013 8:43pm]
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