Southwest Virginia’s representatives and the Truth-O-Meter

So far, Southwest Virginia’s congressional representatives aren’t exactly covering themselves with glory when their statements are measured on PolitiFact Virginia’s Truth-O-Meter.

PolitiFact Virginia is run by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, a reliably conservative editorial voice. They started putting politicians’ statements to the test last fall.

Here’s a wrap-up of the scores so far:

Rep. Robert Hurt:
Statements graded: 8
Statements rated “True”: 0
Statements rated  “Half-true”: 2
Statements rated “Barely true”: 1
Statements rated “False”: 4
Statements rated “Pants On Fire”: 1

Rep. Morgan Griffith:
Statements graded: 5
Statements rated “True”:  0
Statements rated “Half-true”: 1
Statements rated “Barely true”: 3
Statements rated “False: “1”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte:
Statements graded: 1
Statements rated “True”: 0
Statements rated “Mostly True”: 1

I don’t know why Goodlatte has gotten away with such little scrutiny. I know for a fact that he has been caught in some whoppers.

This isn’t a Republican/Democrat thing, by the way. Former Rep. Tom Perriello, who I have great respect for, didn’t fare a whole lot better under PolitiFact’s scrutiny. Of five statements examined, two were found to be half true and three were false. Former Rep. Rick Boucher had two statements examined; one was half-true and one was barely true.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s PolitiFact file is worth taking a look at, too.

If politicians are going to lie – and they are – it’s good that places like PolitiFact are helping hold them accountable.

Respect the voters?

In a Roanoke Times article today, Rep. Morgan Griffith said gerrymandering his 9th Congressional District to include Salem – where he lives – would respect the wishes of the district’s voters.

Uh, sure.

Griffith took a fair amount of heat for running for a district that he didn’t live in, though he offered assurances that his friends in the General Assembly would take care of that little issue with redistricting. And, sure enough, the proposed map offered by the Republican House of Delegates carves Salem into the 9th District. “The voters looked at the values that I stood for and the positions that I took and they voted for me,” Griffith said. “Obviously, they did not see Salem as being alien to the 9th District.”

Yes, certainly. Since a majority of the conservative 9th Congressional District voted for a Republican over a Democrat in a Republican sweep year – a Democrat who had been subjected to an unprecedented barrage of negative advertising paid for by outside interest groups – it certainly makes sense to put Salem in the same congressional district as Abingdon, Va., rather than neighboring Roanoke.

This year’s redistricting process, it is increasingly clear, has absolutely nothing to do respecting the voters and everything with accommodating incumbents. Voters should not be pleased, and they should remember in November.

Let’s turn up the heat on redistricting

I wasn’t in Virginia for the 2001 redistricting, so it’s hard to compare the current atmosphere to last time. (I was in West Virginia at the time where Democrats were in solid control and I don’t remember gerrymandering being much of an issue.) But it seems to me that ordinary citizens are paying better attention to the process, and they’re not liking what they’re seeing.

This is good. The process is a politicized mess that should please no one. Republicans are irritated with the map drawn up by Senate Democrats. Democrats are angry about the map drawn up by House Republicans. And citizens groups are torqued off at both parties. Even some legislators are criticizing the process.

“The majority parties in both houses took a parochial, self-centered, selfish, protect-the-incumbent approach that was decidedly and markedly not the people’s business,” said Del. Joseph. D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, in a floor speech.

Student teams across the state drew maps for a contest designed to show what redistricting would look like without political influence. Those maps were barely given a glance by lawmakers according to Anita Kumar’s Virginia politics blog in The Washington Post. “We’re here to do the people’s business but in viewing the legislative proposal from the Senate and House, it is clear that they put their own business first and not the people’s,” said Morrissey, who plans to introduce a map based on one created by a George Mason University team.

I could be wrong, but I’m hoping that legislators are overplaying their hands with their nakedly political approach to redistricting. There’s too much information out there for voters to compare. If lawmakers don’t pay attention to the criticism of their approach, it’s possible, as my former colleagues at The Roanoke Times said this morning, “Citizens just might remember in August and November which of their elected representatives voted to protect themselves and their parties rather than listen to their constituents.”

Wouldn’t that be something?

Out of his depth in Congress

Morgan Griffith stepped up to the big league when he knocked off Rep. Rick Boucher last November, winning the right to represent the people of Virginia’s 9th Congressional District.

So far, though, he’s showing an embarrassing lack of grasp of the issues he’s supposed to be dealing with – especially in the e-newsletters he sends out to his constituents. First, there was the one where he claimed the EPA instituted a new rule treating milk spills like oil spills – when, in fact, the truth was the exact opposite: The EPA had cleaned up an old rule so that milk spills were not longer treated like an environmental disaster. Despite the fact that PolitiFact Virginia called him out on the mistake, the newsletter remains, uncorrected, on his website nearly two months later.

In his new newsletter marking the one year anniversary of Obamacare’s passage, Griffith demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the law and its implementation. In addition, he repeats a long-debunked claim that the law will raise the average premiums for families by $2,100 a year. In fact, the CBO found that most families would see lower premiums.

But peddling outright lies about Obamacare is practically a prerequisite for proving your Republican bona fides. That’s not so surprising. What is rather shocking how confused he gets about the law and its implementation. For instance, he says:

Originally, Democrats promised that if you liked your health care plan, you could keep it. One year later we know that you need a waiver to keep your plan. Already more than 1,000 employers, health plans, and unions have received waivers because the law would force them to drop coverage for employees.

That’s just stupidly and embarrassingly wrong. The waivers he is discussing only apply to limited-benefit plans in the run-up to full implementation of the law. They are temporary and only meant to ease the transition to when the law’s requirements are in full effect. As PolitiFact Virginia said, “About 2.6 million Americans are covered by limited-benefit plans. That’s a tiny percentage of the 160 million people who have employer-sponsored health coverage, and millions more who have other forms of coverage. Contrary to what Griffith said, very few Americans will need a waiver to keep their health-care plan.”

Just to top off this steaming pile of nonsense, Griffith ends with PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year for 2010, calling Obamacare, “a costly government takeover” of the health care system. In fact, there is no government takeover. Obamacare is a market-oriented solution that, for better or worse, keeps the private insurance industry fully involved in the health care system. Outside of Medicare and Medicaid’s coverage for the elderly and the poor, there is no public option for citizens. Outside of the VA system, there are no public hospitals or public doctors. Again, for better or worse.

If there’s one correct statement in Griffith’s March 25 newsletter, I couldn’t find it. Well, except for the first sentence: “This past Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of ObamaCare.” It went downhill after that.