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

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As campaign operatives fill the airwaves with a barrage of commercials that often make astounding claims, it can be tough for voters in Maine’s 2nd District congressional race to know what’s true and what’s not.

The Sun Journal is checking up on some of the advertising and mailers to help voters make sense of what they’re seeing in one of the most hotly contested political races in the country.

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.

POLIQUIN IS AGAINST COVERING PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS?

Democrats, including Golden, have ripped into Poliquin for allegedly failing to protect the availability of health insurance for those with pre-existing conditions.

In a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee advertisement, someone asks whether Poliquin would “take protections away for people with pre-existing conditions?” and then answers, “Yes.”

Poliquin calls it a lie. It’s actually partly true and partly false.

The reality is that Poliquin has always defended the need for coverage of pre-existing conditions, pointing out that his son has asthma, but he voted in 2017 for a health care plan that experts said would have made it difficult for many people with pre-existing conditions to pay for health care.

GOLDEN SUPPORTER SAVIELLO IS A DEMOCRAT?

In a recent mailer, the Poliquin campaign called Golden a liar in part because the Democrat touts his support from state Sen. Tom Saviello as an indication that he’s willing to work across the aisle with Republicans.

The ad shows photographs of Golden and Saviello with the senator’s picture circled in red and tied to a comment below it that states, “This guy Golden claims is a bipartisan ‘Republican’ was actually an elected Democrat.”

The ad is as close to false as you can get and clearly deceptive. Saviello is a Republican from Wilton. He ran for Senate as a Republican and continues to be a member of the Senate GOP caucus.

When he first ran for the Maine House in 2002, Saviello was a Democrat. But in 2005, he switched his affiliation to independent. He said the Republicans recruited him to run on the GOP line for a Senate seat in 2009 and he’s remained a Republican ever since.

POLIQUIN VOTED TO CUT SOCIAL SECURITY?

The Maine Democratic Party has accused Poliquin of “voting to gut Social Security” and supporting increases in the minimum retirement age. That’s not true.

Its claim is based mostly on Poliquin’s 2017 vote in favor of a $1.9 trillion tax cut that has helped drive up the annual deficit in federal spending. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month called that ballooning deficit “very disturbing,” but instead of citing the tax cut, he blamed spending programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid for the problem, and suggested that is where cuts should be targeted.

There have been, however, no policy changes in those programs to explain the major run-up in the debt in the past two years. The bigger changes have been bipartisan agreements to remove spending caps on things like the military, and last year’s tax cut.

Poliquin never voted to gut Social Security and has never voted to hike the retirement age. The Democrats’ claim is false.

GOLDEN LIKES WELFARE MONEY FOR BOOZE, CIGARETTES?

Echoing a claim by the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is a GOP super PAC, Poliquin said at a debate that “Jared thinks it’s a good idea to use welfare dollars to buy alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets and to bail yourself out of jail.”

The notion that Golden “thinks it’s a good idea” is not true.

“I fully oppose any misuse of these funds,” the Democrat said.

Republicans point to a 2016 bill in Augusta to limit the use of welfare cash. It prohibited welfare recipients from using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to buy tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, tattoos and other items.

State Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, said at the time that his measure “seeks to strike the right balance between preserving assistance when your neighbors or our families fall on hard times, and ensuring the safety net is transparent and accountable.”

Golden was one of 33 Maine House members to vote against it, saying the proposed law was unnecessary because federal rules already banned the use of the welfare cash for such things.

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Detail from a mailer from U.S. Rep Bruce Poliquin’s congressional campaign that called his Democratic challenger Jared Golden a liar. This is one of the examples it cited.

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