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Fact Checker: Grassley on Patty Judge's attendance record

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Introduction

"In just six years, Sen. Patty Judge missed 182 votes."

"State Fair board member Judge missed 76.3 percent of meetings."

"Iowa Economic Development Commission member Judge missed 69 of 72 meetings."

"The Register called Patty Judge a ‘habitual no show’"

SOURCE OF CLAIM: U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s ‘Miss’ television ad.

Analysis

Republican Grassley — who is known for his 23-year attendance voting record in the Senate — paints Democratic challenger Judge as perpetually absent.

To verify the ad’s claim that Judge missed 182 votes as a state senator, Fact Checker reviewed Senate journals from 1993 to 1998 — more than 15,000 pages during her two terms — and found she had missed about 155 votes.

However, because of the volume of documents and limitations posed by the ways the information was recorded, it’s possible our search overlooked the fewer than 30 votes that would make up the difference. Regardless, this claim is at least largely true.

Grassley’s campaign provided meeting minutes obtained from the Iowa Department of Economic Development Board and from the State Fair Board to Fact Checker to substantiate other claims.

Roll call tallies in Iowa State Fair board records from 1999 to 2006 mark Judge absent at 74 of 97 meetings — 76.3 percent.

But minutes show she often arrived late to the meetings, often by 10 or 15 minutes. At 24 meetings, Judge missed roll call but was present for most of the meeting. She sent a surrogate in her place to two meetings.

If we count her late arrivals, she missed 47 of 97 meetings, or 48.4 percent.

Records in Economic Development Board documents from 1999 to 2004 show Judge attended three meetings as a voting member of the board — missing 69 of 72.

While Judge was state Secretary of Agriculture, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Brent Halling attended some meetings, although both missed many altogether.

Halling was not a voting member of the board.

In four additional meetings, it’s unclear whether Judge or Halling were present as they are listed in records as “Patty Judge/Brent Halling” or “Ag. Sec. Patty Judge/Deputy Ag. Sec. Brent Halling.”

If we count the attendance of the two Department of Agriculture officials together, they were present at 25 meetings.

Toward the end of Judge’s tenure as ag secretary, the Legislature struck language mandating the Secretary of Agriculture serve on the board in mid-2005.

In a May 18, 2006, article about Judge’s economic development meeting attendance, a Des Moines Register article by Thomas Beaumont characterized her as a “habitual no-show.”

Conclusion

Although Grassley’s ad is strict in discounting Judge’s presence at State Fair Board meetings when she arrives late, the ad’s overall message holds up. Judge regularly was absent for Economic Development Board meetings and State Fair Board meetings, even when we consider her late arrivals.

But the ad counts Judge’s tardiness to many State Fair Board meetings as an complete absence. A more comprehensive count has her missing 48.4 percent of meetings — a poor attendance record, but much less so than claimed.

Because of that claim’s exaggeration, we consider this ad as mostly true and rate it a B.

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/office holder or a national candidate/office holder about Iowa, or in advertisements that appear in our market. Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

This Fact Checker was researched and written by Molly Duffy.

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