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PolitiFact Florida: Connie Mack says Bill Nelson voted to study monkeys on cocaine

The statement

Sen. Bill Nelson voted to spend "$144,541 to see how monkeys react under the influence of cocaine."

Connie Mack, April 12, in a television ad

The ruling

Florida's Senate race has entered the jungle.

A new attack ad features howling monkeys to make a point about allegedly out-of-control spending under Democratic leadership. It gets better: These monkeys are on cocaine.

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, launched the ad in his quest to knock out Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. The ad hit airwaves last week.

"When Bill Nelson voted for the stimulus, he voted for millions in wasteful spending, including spending our tax dollars to see how monkeys react under the influence of cocaine," the ad says. "Hey, Bill Nelson, stop monkeying around with our tax dollars."

PolitiFact has investigated several claims from politicians about allegedly wasteful projects bankrolled by the $862 billion stimulus package since 2009. Science grants are a popular target. Crazy as they may sound, many of the projects mentioned in attack ads are real.

But we've learned there's usually more to the point of a study than the ads let on, as well as whether the targeted lawmaker actually voted to spend taxpayer dough on it.

Such is the case with the cocaine-addicted monkeys, a 2-year-old tale getting new life on a second campaign trail.

Nelson voted in a favor of a stimulus bill that directed large sums of money to scientific research. But he never actually voted to send money to a monkey-cocaine study.

"While on the one hand it is easy to say that senators voting for the stimulus should have known it would have included funding for items many would consider wasteful, they didn't know specifically where the money was going," said Brian Balfour, an analyst with the conservative North Carolina-based Civitas Institute.

The National Institutes of Health selected the project for a grant through a competitive process.

NIH director Francis Collins defended the monkey study in 2010, saying, "I don't know if the critics want us to experiment with humans or just give up on the problem of drug addiction, but we aren't going to do either."

So yes, Nelson was among senators to approve the stimulus package, which directed large sums of money to scientific research.

But Nelson didn't pick out the monkey project. A federal agency did. We rate Mack's statement Mostly False.

KATIE SANDERS, Times Staff Writer. This ruling has been edited for print. Read more at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

PolitiFact Florida: Connie Mack says Bill Nelson voted to study monkeys on cocaine 04/13/12 [Last modified: Monday, April 16, 2012 9:46pm]
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