Fact or fiction: Checking claims from Maine’s 2nd District congressional race

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Trying to find the truth among the cacophony of competing claims in advertisements and mailers in Maine’s 2nd District congressional race is a challenge for even the most well-informed voters.

To lend a hand before Tuesday’s election, the Sun Journal is checking up on some of the assertions to find out which ones have merit and which don’t.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a two-term Republican, is fighting to keep his seat Nov. 6 as he faces three challengers: Democrat Jared Golden of Lewiston and independents Tiffany Bond of Portland and Will Hoar of Southwest Harbor.

DID POLIQUIN VOTE TO TAKE HEALTH COVERAGE FROM 117,000 MAINERS?

The claim by Democrats that Poliquin voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, push 117,000 Mainers off the health-care rolls and hike the cost of coverage for those 50 and older is rooted in the Republican lawmaker’s support in 2017 for a bill that sought to revamp Obamacare.

It’s the same bill that Maine Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins voted against and helped to kill in the Senate. Collins said at the time that “for many Americans” the bill “could actually make the situation worse.” She cited a Congressional Budget Office projection that the number of uninsured Americans would climb by 23 million under the House-approved measure, mostly by pushing low-income people off the rolls.

How many of those losing coverage would hail from Maine was never specifically addressed except by outside experts, who came up with a variety of numbers. There doesn’t appear to be any dispute that under the measure that Poliquin favored, at least tens of thousands of Mainers would have lost health-care coverage over time. So the Democrats’ assertion has a basis in truth

Poliquin argued on WGAN radio on Friday that criticism of his health-care record is “ the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.” He insisted he supports Medicaid, Medicare and coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. He also pointed to his 2015 vote to keep President Barack Obama’s ACA until an acceptable alternative could be found. That is true.

But his vote last year would, by all accounts, have repealed the ACA and cut Medicaid assistance. It also would have opened the door for insurance companies to charge older Americans more for their coverage.

The Democrats’ claim is at least partly true, but the specific number of Mainers who might have lost insurance had the bill passed is speculative.

IS NANCY PELOSI PULLING GOLDEN’S STRINGS?

Poliquin has often tied Golden to U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insisting that if the Democrats win the House she’ll become the next speaker.

That’s probably true, though there’s a chance someone else will take over. But the GOP’s insistence that she’s pulling the strings for Golden is iffy at best given that Golden has said he won’t back her if Democrats take control of the House.

Golden has gone on the record saying it’s time for congressional leadership to shift into the hands of a new generation.

DID POLIQUIN HELP DELIVER TAX SAVINGS FOR MAINE FAMILIES?

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP Super PAC, claimed this week that Poliquin “cut middle-class taxes, saving Maine families $2,000 a year.”

The statement is based on Poliquin’s vote last December for a $1.9 trillion tax cut bill that was aimed at stimulating the economy, delivering much of the cut to companies and Americans making over $200,000 annually, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

But most families are also saving money because of the tax measure.

The House Ways and Means Committee figured the average family of four in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District would save $2,114 annually.

Poliquin said when the cut passed that he wanted “to help our Maine families keep more of their hard-earned money” and make it easier for small businesses to grow.

Democrats questioned the wisdom of increasing the federal budget deficit in order to hand out tax cuts, but the statement is true: The new tax plan delivered savings to Maine families.

IS GOLDEN’S DENTAL OFFICE INCOME SHADY?

A Poliquin mailer included a section headlined “Golden: a dental worker?” that went on to say, “In official documents he claims work for a dentist. With no dental license he took home $23,000 from the office.”

The assertion aims to imply Golden did something fishy or improper after the number showed up on a the financial disclosure form he filed when he was an aide to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs seven years ago.

Golden mentioned on the form that he earned $23,000 working at a dental office, where he was a part-time office manager mostly responsible for cleaning up the place.

“I wasn’t working on anybody’s mouth,” Golden said. “I didn’t need a license.”

The implication that Golden’s pay for part-time work for a dentist was improper is false.

You can see two other  fact checks on claims in the 2nd District race online at sunjournal.com. 

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A screenshot from a television advertisement put out recently by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC aligned with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Title page of the Congressional Budget Office report on the health-care measure U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin voted for in May 2017.

Mailers in the 2nd Congressional District election this year.

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