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Reality Check: The New Attack Ads Both Sides Are Using

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota’s television airwaves are flooded with negative campaign ads right now, especially in the hotly contested races for Congressional seats held by Republicans Michele Bachmann and Chip Cravaack.

There’s a new political attack that both Republicans and Democrats are using. The attacks focus on how often challengers showed up for work.

A new ad from 6th District Democratic challenger Jim Graves says Bachmann is more concerned about national fame than national policy.

“Unfortunately Michele Bachmann’s gotten distracted by her own celebrity,” the ad says. “It’s costing Minnesota. She missed 90 percent of votes while campaigning out of state.”

This Graves ad is TRUE. Bachmann missed hundreds of votes, including 88 in a row during her presidential campaign. The number, however, is cherry picked for maximum negativity.

Since taking office in 2007, Bachmann has missed 11 percent of recorded or roll call votes.

But she’s not alone.

During 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama missed 33 percent of roll call votes. And from 2005 to 2008, Obama missed 24 percent of votes.

Also in 2008, then-candidate Sen. John McCain missed 52 percent of votes.

In Minnesota’s 8th District, the conservative American Action Network is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to attack the 1970s voting record of Democrat Rick Nolan. Nolan is running against Cravaack, a first-term Republican congressman.

“Four pay raises, and he skipped one-third of votes as he left Congress,” the ad says.

This is mostly TRUE. But the numbers are manipulated to show Nolan at his worst.  However, his absentee rate was high.

From 1975 to 1980, Nolan missed 16 percent of recorded and roll call votes. In comparison, Cravaack has missed  1 percent of votes in 2011 and 2012.

Nolan defended his attendance record this week.

“I missed a few votes on the recording of the minutes and the naming of post offices, but when the critical issues were up, I was there,” he said.

Nolan’s campaign also issued a written statement:

“Once again Chip Cravaack is cherry picking the facts to mislead voters. Rick Nolan served honorably and was widely viewed as one of the most respected members of congress during his service. As he sees his numbers slipping in the polls, Chip Cravaack is launching more false and desperate attacks.”

Here’s what you NEED TO KNOW: This kind of political attack is nothing new. Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz used it in 1978 to defeat Democrat Wendell Anderson.

As Minnesota Governor, Anderson appointed himself the US Senate seat vacated by Walter Mondale, who was elected Vice President in 1976.

“First, he appoints himself to the job,” the ad said. “Then he doesn’t show up for work. Let’s elect a senator who will.”

According to govtrack.us, the median number of missed votes for members of Congress is just 2.5 percent.

Editor’s note: The Cravaack campaign issued this statement on Thursday, Oct. 18 — “Once again, former Congressman Nolan is not being straight with Minnesotans. Nolan missed 36% of votes during the last year he served in Congress and 26% of votes the year prior. After Nolan voted to raise his pay by nearly 50% over a four year period, he skipped a number of key votes including funding for disabled veterans and defense authorization bills,” Ben Golnik, Adviser to Cravaack for Congress.


Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check.

Voting records:

Chip Cravaack
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/chip_cravaack/412441

Richard Nolan
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/richard_nolan/408211

Michele Bachmann
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/michele_bachmann/412216

Barack Obama
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/barack_obama/400629

John McCain
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/john_mccain/300071

Graves Ad
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAm-TV_LN8c&feature=youtu.be

American Action Network Ad
http://americanactionnetwork.org/

Bachmann Missed Votes During Presidential Campaign
http://thehill.com/homenews/house/184937-bachmann-missed-every-house-vote-in-september

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/10/bachmann-breaks-streak-of-88-consecutive-missed-votes/

Rudy Boschwitz
http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00013.xml

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