1. Florida Politics

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

Published Jan. 13, 2014

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.


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