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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

City Council campaign ads contain false claims


With money pouring into two Spokane City Council races at a frenzied pace, the campaign material arriving by mail, on the radio, on TV and on the Internet may be misleading or plain wrong.

Here’s a look at a few of the more-dubious claims made in the campaigns:

Claim made about John Ahern: “John Ahern says no to keeping our kids and community healthy.

“He opposed lowering prescription drug costs for seniors. He opposed children’s healthcare access. He opposed making health insurance more affordable for small businesses.”

Source: Citizens for Honest Government, a political action committee financed by unions.

Truthfulness: Partially false.

Analysis: The line that Ahern, a former state representative, “opposed lowering prescription drug costs for seniors” is attributed to House Bill 2649 from 2004. But that bill was about adjusting the members of a county road administration board. The PAC’s treasurer, Melissa Carpenter, said the bill numbers were transposed accidentally and should have read House Bill 2469, which made it easier to purchase prescription drugs from Canada. Ahern voted no on the bill.

The mailer also claims that Ahern “opposed children’s healthcare access” because he “voted no” on House Bill 2127. Carpenter said the legislation it’s referencing is the state’s two-year budget from 2012 – a massive 282-page bill that deals with all sorts of government funding. Although some portions of it deal with children’s health care, it’s a stretch to say he “opposes children’s healthcare access” as a result of his “no” vote on the total budget. Carpenter said the statement could have been attributed to Senate Bill 5093 from 2007; Ahern opposed increasing the amount of income a family could earn in order to place children in the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program from 250 percent or less of the federal poverty level to 300 percent.

Claim made about Ahern: “In 2010 Ahern missed 66 votes, fourth most out of 100 legislators.”

“Ahern failed Spokane in the legislature for a decade. After being asked to step down, now he wants to be on your city council … Ahern is an absentee leader.”

Source: Campaign flier from Citizens for Honest Government Political Action Committee.

Truthfulness: False, based on the date.

Also, the group can’t provide the proof that Ahern was “asked to step down.”

Analysis: Ahern was not in the Washington House of Representatives in 2010, but the “66 vote” statistic is correct for 2011, according to Washington Votes, the vote-tracking website of the Washington Policy Center. In his final term in the House in 2011 and 2012, Ahern missed 98 of 1,224 votes, fifth-worst among House members. Asked to provide the source for the statement that Ahern was asked to step down, Carpenter said she believes she heard it from another legislator, but could not remember which one. Ahern has said that he decided to leave the House of Representatives because his wife has been ill and that he would rather serve in an office closer to his home.

• Claim made about Candace Mumm: “There are strings attached to Candace Mumm’s money. … Over 30 percent of her campaign money came from special-interest groups and out-of-area contributors … only 3 percent of her contributions come from local Spokane businesses.”

Source: Mailer from Michael Cannon’s campaign.

Truthfulness: The numbers could be accurate depending on your definition of “special interest,” but Cannon, too, is heavily backed by political action committees.

Analysis: This mailer correctly notes that Candace Mumm’s campaign has been heavily financed by Democratic-leaning groups, mostly unions. And not just unions with ties to Spokane, but West Side groups like the Bremerton and Seattle firefighter unions.

Cannon’s campaign fund has some contributions from PACs and associations that often give to Republicans, but it has relied to a greater degree than Mumm’s on individuals and businesses within Spokane County. A PAC created to take money from Republican-leaning PACs, called Jobs and Prosperity for Spokane, has raised nearly $80,000 from builders, developers and others.

The mud-throwing PAC game also is being played on behalf of Mumm and Jon Snyder. Citizens for Honest Government has raised nearly $90,000, almost entirely from unions.

The bottom line is both sides are supported by “special interests.”

Also, it’s not as if Mumm hasn’t raised money locally.

While nearly all 22 of the maximum $900 contributions Mumm has received are from unions, 81 percent of all the contributions she has received came from Spokane addresses, mostly from individuals. Cannon’s campaign has gotten 85 percent of its contributions from Spokane addresses.

Finally, while it’s true that the Spokane Tribe of Indians has proposed a casino in Airway Heights that is controversial, it seems questionable to place the tribe on a list headlined: “Outside Spokane and special interest contributors.”

Like the 18 other groups placed on this boogeyman list, the tribe indeed has an address outside the city limits of Spokane. But the Cannon campaign might want to consider some history before placing too much blame on the tribe for putting its headquarters in Wellpinit, instead of adjacent Spokane Falls.

Claim made about Michael Cannon: “He supported the 2013 budget which cut 21 police positions. If public safety was really priority number one, why would he support this?”

Source: Mailer from Citizens for Honest Government Political Action Committee.

Truthfulness: True, but mostly meaningless.

Analysis: The city’s 2013 budget eliminated 19 police officer “positions.” And that’s the key word: “positions.” None of them was filled. They were sitting empty on the books after a long period of budget cuts. So, while it might be true that Cannon, as a supporter of the decision to approve the 2013 budget, supported the elimination of police positions, it also is true that he supported a budget that didn’t eliminate any police officers.

This story was changed on Oct. 31, 2013 to correct an error related to Ahern’s missed votes in 2011.