Fact check: Dark money group lies about Democrats' tax 'promise' in misleading ad

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The Club for Growth didn't bother to read very carefully.

A series of new ads from a conservative dark money group accuses House Democrats of breaking a promise they never made. And the supposed source for the ads' claims does not remotely support their argument.

The ads are sponsored by the right-wing Club for Growth, a tax-exempt group that works to elect anti-government Republicans and does not disclose its donors. They target five moderate Democrats who signed a Nov. 5 statement promising to back the president's plan — as long as an independent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed it was fully paid for.

One typical ad accuses Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) of having "caved" on a pledge to oppose President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better jobs package.

"Prices on gas, groceries, cars, housing going through the roof. Stephanie Murphy caved in," a narrator says in the 15-second spot. "Promised to stop the left from raising our taxes. Now says she'll vote yes." Constituents are urged to call Murphy and tell her, "Don't betray us. Vote no like you promised."

The sourcing for the claim that she promised to oppose the legislation, which raises taxes only on corporations and those earning $400,000 or more annually, appears on the screen as a quote ("vowing to vote against any tax increase...") in big letters and a source ("Forbes, 3/30/21") in very small ones.

But the March 30 Forbes story that contains the phrase makes no mention of Murphy or of a promise on anyone's part to oppose all tax increases. The words come from Forbes' reporting that three House Democrats — New York Rep. Tom Suozzi, New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell, and New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer — were "vowing to vote against any tax increase put forward by the administration that doesn't include a repeal of the state and local tax deduction cap."

While Murphy had previously expressed some reservations about the size and scope of Biden's original $3.5 trillion proposal, she said in September that she wanted a "targeted and fiscally responsible" bill that was "paid for by tax provisions that promote fairness but do not hurt working families."

Biden's current proposal to invest in climate change, clean energy, child care, universal preschool, health care, home care, and an expanded child tax credit would not only be fully paid for, but would also actually reduce the budget deficit, economists say. It would not raise taxes on lower- or middle-income families and would cut 2022 taxes for most of them.

Nearly identical ads featuring the same dishonest sourcing attack Reps. Ed Case (D-HI), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and Gottheimer.

The provisions addressing state and local taxes that Gottheimer had demanded are included in the House's version of the bill. The Forbes article does not mention Case, Rice, and Schrader.

A Club for Growth spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

But in a press release issued on Nov. 12, Club for Growth President David McIntosh, a former Republican representative from Indiana, said, "These five Democrats promised their constituents that they would vote against Biden's radical tax-and-spend bill and now they're betraying them." The release offers no further evidence that any of the five Democrats ever made that promise.

The ads are part of a $2.5 million campaign by the group to stop Biden's jobs bill. In October, it spent $250,000 on spots falsely claiming that Biden's $3.5 trillion package "could cost your family $10,400."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.