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Truth Squad: Attack on Schuette bungles the truth

a frame from the "shady schuette" ad with bill schuette in sunglasses
Calley Continues Comeback
A frame from the "Shady Schuette" ad.

An attack ad against Bill Schuette is full of false statements according to Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad. Schuette is a Republican candidate for governor. The ad comes from a Super PAC supporting one of his Republican opponents. We talked with the reporter behind the Truth Squad report.

The Truth Squad describes the 30 second video as a “cartoonish ad that bungles the truth.” It’s more of a comical-looking dark graphic novel.

“You’ve got Bill Schuette in very dark sunglasses and this ominous music. And you see Bill Schuette with fistfuls of cash, and there’s money raining down and there’s piles of money behind him. Just to look at it with no sound, it’s almost like who is this very scary man,” said Bridge Magazine's Ted Roelofs.

VIDEO: “Blind ambition must blind the truth. Shady Bill Schuette attacks Brian Calley, but it’s Shady Schuette who supported the massive legislative pay raise.”

The ad is talking about a substantial pay raise for legislators, judges, and other government officials. It cites a newspaper article from 2001. Roelofs found that 17-year-old article. It reported on the pay recommendation made by an independent commission mandated by the state constitution.  

But Roeloffs says the ad implies Schuette had a bigger role than he would have at the time.

“As a state senator, Bill Schuette expressed general support for the measure, but he also said he had a problem with the process. And he was also quoted as saying he had not decided on how he would vote if it came up. It never did come up for a vote. He didn’t vote for it. He couldn’t have because it didn’t come up,” he explained.

And by the Senate not voting on it, the pay raises automatically went into effect.

There’s another claim in the ad.

VIDEO: “It’s Shady Schuette who collects two fat government pensions with two more on the way.”

But the Truth Squad found Schuette is only collecting one pension from his time as a state legislator. He could have been eligible for a pension for his six years in Congress, but a Member of Congress can opt out of the pension.

“And then I just got a note from the Schuette campaign confirming through an official with Member Services that he is, indeed, not eligible for a Congressional pension because, apparently, he did opt out at that time,” Roelofs said.

Roelofs says the claim that two other “fat government pensions…on the way” is misleading as well. Schuette has 401k type plans from working as a court of appeals judge and as attorney general. That’s not the same as a pension. He also served as the director of the Department of Agriculture, but did not hold the position long enough to become vested in a state pension plan.

“There’s some sort of implicit suggestion that collecting a pension is morally wrong. And you just take a step back. People that served in the same office that he served in would be eligible for exactly the same benefits. So, on the face of it, there’s nothing shady at all," Roelofs observed.

And, here’s the final part of the ad:

VIDEO: “Schuette’s 35 years in politics must end. Brian Calley and Rick Snyder are driving the Michigan Comeback. They brought us the largest tax cut in decades.”

The Truth Squad challenges the final claim there. Snyder’s big $1.7 billion tax cut for businesses was historic. The measure also increased taxes on individuals by about $1.4 billion.

To quote Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad conclusion: “This is an easy call. There’s nothing in the ad that is totally accurate.”

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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