Above Graphic: It was true in 2018, and is still true today.
I tried to enjoy watching a couple of baseball games on Sunday, but apparently election ad season has started early in full swing. Given the number of ads, you would think Tuesday is election day.
Anyway, I saw a series of attack ads from Martha McSally against Mark Kelly that made my “Spidey senses” tingle. I have followed her political career since she first came on the scene, and the one truism I have learned from following her is that McSally lies with the greatest of ease. These ads needed a fact check.
Luckily for me, someone has already done the work fact checking. The Arizona Daily Star reports today, Fact-checkers find inaccuracies in McSally attack ads against opponent Kelly:
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally accuses Democratic opponent Mark Kelly of “lining his pockets with taxpayer money” in a trio of new attack ads, but fact-checkers are already poking holes in some of her claims.
The ads launched July 31 feature testimonials from three Southern Arizona residents and focus on Kelly’s ties to World View Enterprises, the high-tech, high-altitude balloon company he helped found in 2013.
In one spot, a Tucson small business owner named Gloria labels Kelly as a “hypocrite” for publicly criticizing the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program at the same time World View was accepting at least $1 million in loans from the pandemic relief initiative.
On Thursday, the nonprofit fact-checking site PolitiFact.com labeled that criticism as “mostly false,” noting that Kelly left World View in February 2019, the same month he announced his candidacy, and played no part in the company’s application for PPP assistance.
The site operated by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies also pointed out that Kelly’s criticisms were about the program not doing enough to help small businesses, especially tribal communities.
World View has said that it used its government loan to return 17 employees from furlough and preserve 38 jobs overall.
The Kelly campaign said the former astronaut did not know about the loan and “has not received a dime of PPP money.”
McSally’s two other ads blast Kelly for his connection to a 2016 economic development deal under which Pima County built World View a $15 million launch facility south of Tucson International Airport in exchange for lease payments and a promise to create jobs.
In one of the 30-second spots, Chris, an Air Force veteran from Tucson, says Kelly “ripped off Arizona taxpayers” when he “pocketed $15 million of our money for his business, and then laid off workers instead of creating new jobs.”
“No one pocketed any money,” the Kelly campaign said in a statement responding to the ads. “Pima County constructed a building and leased it to World View.”
According to John Moffatt, economic development director for the county, World View had made all of its scheduled lease payments through April, when the company was granted a six-month deferral by the county as a result of the pandemic and economic downturn.
Moffatt said the claim about jobs is also misleading.
Though World View did lay off 10 workers as part of a retooling in February 2019, Moffatt said the company quickly hired more people to replace them and has consistently exceeded its employment benchmarks, both in terms of the jobs created and the salaries paid.
The contract with the county requires the company to employ an average of at least 100 workers at a minimum annual salary of $50,000 over the first four years of the deal. From there, the requirement goes up by 100 workers and $5,000 in annual pay every five years until it reaches 400 workers with a minimum salary of $60,000 for the contract’s final five-year period.
Moffatt said some coronavirus-related furloughs earlier this year have dropped World View below the 100-employee threshold, but county officials believe it is only temporary.
“They were growing rapidly (before the pandemic). They were adding 15 people a month,” Moffatt said. “We aren’t worried about it.”
The McSally campaign launched the new ads four days before she cruised to an easy primary election victory Tuesday over Phoenix-area businessman Daniel McCarthy.
The three people featured in the ads are only identified by their first names and where they live. Campaign spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg declined to give out their full names to protect them from possible backlash.
Hint: They are either paid actors, or connected to Martha McSally. This reporter needs to keep digging.
McSally drew criticism earlier this year for a pair of ads that touted her health-care record but used testimonials from a former member of her staff and another GOP operative without disclosing their political backgrounds. The campaign defended the move, arguing that the women’s work in politics did not invalidate their health-care experiences.
World View was founded in 2013 by Kelly, former NASA associate administrator Alan Stern and former Biosphere 2 inhabitants and space entrepreneurs Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter.
Poynter served as CEO until March 2019, when Southern Arizona native and drone-industry veteran Ryan Hartman was named chief executive.
The company initially planned to use its Stratollite balloon vehicles to take tourists on high-priced flights into the stratosphere. It has since shifted its focus to unmanned, balloon-mounted research vehicles that can stay aloft for months at a time, providing a platform for things like Earth imaging and atmospheric monitoring at the fraction of the cost of orbital satellites.
World View has launched more than a dozen test flights in the past three years, including a record-setting, 32-day endurance flight last October.
In December 2017, one of World View’s hydrogen-filled balloons exploded during ground testing, resulting in almost $500,000 in damage to the county-owned building. World View’s insurance carrier ultimately paid the full cost of the repairs.
The company and the county also have weathered a long legal fight with the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based conservative think tank that challenged the no-bid contract as an illegal corporate giveaway of tax money.
In his 2019 financial disclosure, Kelly reported owning at least $100,000 in World View corporate securities.
The document also included the final $4,380 in salary the company paid him as a strategic adviser.
Kelly’s 2020 financial disclosure is due on Aug. 13.
NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard reported on Mark Kelly’s bid to unseat Sen. Martha McSally for MSNBC’s Kasie DC on Sunday. This video won’t post, so here is the link. Money floods into desert, as Arizona becomes key Senate, Presidential battleground.
Kelly discusses McSally’s attack ads with Vaughn Hillyard, and dismisses it as a baseless attack, which the fact check above confirms.
The stomach churning part of Hillyard’s report is Martha McSally’s pathetic attempt to remake herself as an “independent moderate” representing Arizona’s interests, and not just a right-wing rubber stamp for Donald Trump and “Moscow Mitch” McConnell. Puh-lease, who is she kidding? McSally is so far up Donald Trump’s ass that she bumped into Sean Hannity.
McSally also has a “positive” ad running on television about how she is trying to help Arizonans during the coronavirus pandemic. No, seriously, she is actually running this ad.
This is the same woman who wants to kill the Affordable Care Act during a global pandemic, taking health care away from millions of Americans. And no, that bullshit she keeps selling about how she wants to protect those with preexisting conditions is a shameless lie. Previously, Martha McSally still lying after all these years about pre-existing conditions (updated).
This ad from Forward Arizona currently running on television in response to McSally’s ad puts this nonsense to rest.