Fact Checker Caucus Roundup: How did your favorite caucus candidate score?

Democratic presidential candidates from left, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, then-South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Eliza
Democratic presidential candidates from left, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, then-South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer participate Dec. 19, 2019, in a Democratic presidential primary debate in Los Angeles. (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

From television and radio ads to campaign events and mailers, Iowans have been listening to a lot of talk from presidential candidates.

The Gazette’s Fact Checker has checked Iowa-based political statements from a dozen Democratic presidential candidates and one national group since July in an attempt to help readers sort fact from fiction. With just days until the Iowa caucuses, the Fact Checker summarized the grades we provided on checks of candidates still in the race.

For full versions of these checks and others, go to

Joe Biden

Claim: “In your state, your governor goes ahead and privatizes Medicaid, which is why hospitals aren’t getting paid on time so they’re shutting down. They’re shutting down emergency services and they’re at risk.”

Conclusion: Biden’s statement is overstated. Despite the national trend, hospitals in Iowa are neither closing their emergency departments nor shutting entirely.

However, state hospital officials and other experts agree that the switch in the Medicaid system in 2016 to a managed care program has had a negative impact on health care providers, including late or incorrect payments from insurers that run the program.

The Fact Checker found an instance of an independent women’s health care clinic in central Iowa that cited Medicaid as the reason for its closure in Taking that all into account, we gave Biden a C.

Pete Buttigieg

Claim: Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., included this claim in a radio ad titled “Fabric” that started airing in August on rural radio stations in Iowa: “Net farm income has been cut almost in half in the past five years.”

Conclusion: Buttigieg criticizes President Donald Trump for a “reckless trade war tearing apart rural America.” He says bailouts aren’t making up for losses suffered by farmers. One of those losses is in net farm income, which Buttigieg says is nearly 50 percent lower than its peak in 2013. That is accurate, according to March estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which said inflation-adjusted net farm income would be $69.4 billion for 2019, 49 percent below the high point of $136.1 billion in 2013. Trump’s own ag secretary noted the same numbers in February testimony to the House. We gave him an A.

Amy Klobuchar

Claim: “Why do prescription drugs cost more in the U.S. than in Canada?” “How come it’s against the law for Medicare to negotiate lower prices?”


Conclusion: In a 2018 study cited by the Minnesota senator’s campaign, the United States was the highest pharmaceutical spender among 11 other countries, including Canada. Other research also supports this finding.

In addition, research in recent years has shown the United States paid “substantially higher prices” than other countries for common name-brand prescription drugs, even among insured Americans.

Medicare, one of the nation’s biggest buyers of medicine, is barred from negotiating prices with drug companies under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. The law has a “non-interference” clause, which stipulates the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services may not interfere with negotiations “between drug manufacturers and pharmacies and Medicare Prescription Drug Plan sponsors.”

Fact Checker gave these claims an A.

Claim: At a campaign stop in Marion on Jan. 19, Klobuchar said she had “more endorsements of elected legislators and former legislators in the state of Iowa than any candidate in this race.”

Conclusion: Candidates’ lists of endorsers are ever-changing in the final days until the caucuses. When she made this claim, four of her competitors (including Cory Booker, who already had dropped out) had more prominent Iowa backers than she did. But Klobuchar was right about the specific claim of having the most past and present Iowa legislators in her corner. We gave her an A.

Bernie Sanders

Claim: In a September mailer to Iowa voters, the Vermont senator claimed he was “the first candidate to stand up and demand affordable health care for everyone through Medicare for all.” And, “In Trump’s economy, nearly half of new wealth has gone to the ultrarich while many families continue to struggle.”

Conclusion: The campaign is accurate in touting Sanders as the forerunner among the 2020 Democratic field on Medicare for all. He has been espousing the message since the 1970s. On the second claim, the numbers are correct based on data available so far, which are from 2017 when President Donald Trump took office. However, this mailer could be misleading because the share of new income captured by the top 1 percent is roughly the same or less under Trump than under Barack Obama or George W. Bush, and is on par with the 25-year average.

Fact Checker scored Sanders’ claims an A.

Tom Steyer

Claim: The California businessman, speaking Aug. 11 at the Iowa State Fair soapbox, said the organization he started, NextGen America, is “on 41 campuses in the state of Iowa. We’ve been here since the beginning of 2013. If you look at 2014 versus 2018 in the places we were, turnout by people under 30 went from 18 percent — less than 1-in-5 people under 30 were voting — to more than 41 percent. More than ‘two x.’”

Conclusion: The youth vote in Iowa clearly increased from 2014 to 2018, but not by as much as Steyer claimed. Steyer appears to be mixing data sources. Put together, they overstate the increase in Iowa’s youth turnout. Depending how you look at it, turnout was up 43 percent or 57 percent among younger voters, but not more than double. It is also worth noting that turnout in areas where NextGen did not organize in Iowa and around the nation was also up substantially.


Fact Checker gave Steyer a C.

Elizabeth Warren

Claim: In Elizabeth Warren’s “Top Priority” ad, which she started airing Jan. 9 in Iowa, the candidate says “I’m not doing big-dollar fundraisers.” On the screen, it says Warren’s campaign is “100 percent grassroots funded. No big-dollar fundraisers.”

Conclusion: There is no evidence Warren has held private fundraising events with a pay-to-play vibe since she swore off “big-dollar fundraisers” in February. She doesn’t charge for photos and her campaign says she has not taken time from the trail to make phone calls to big donors.

But Warren transferred money from her Senate campaign to her presidential campaign, which means some share of her total campaign contributions came from big-dollar events she held while running for Senate. The Fact Checker gave Warren a B.

Andrew Yang

Claim: “To me, the driving force in Donald Trump’s victory was we automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Missouri and 40,000 right here in Iowa. Do you all want to guess how effective the government-funded retraining programs were for the people of Iowa? Zero to 15 percent.”

Yang made these comments Aug. 9 at the Iowa State Fair.

Conclusion: Iowa did lose 60,000 manufacturing jobs between 1999 and 2010. However, that loss has rebounded. Mike O’Donnell, program director for Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service, told the Fact Checker it’s impossible to know how many of those lost jobs were due to automation versus other factors, such as outsourcing or changing markets.

Yang’s claim about government-funded retraining efforts in Iowa being “zero to 15 percent” effective fits with credible national data. But a Department of Labor fact sheet says three-quarters of Trade Adjustment Assistance Program participants in Iowa found new jobs in fiscal 2016.

We gave his claims a D overall.

Claim: During a speech at the Nov. 1 Iowa Democratic Party Liberty and Justice Celebration in Des Moines, the New York entrepreneur said “Amazon’s soaking up $20 billion in business each year causing 30 percent of your stores and malls to close. How much is Amazon paying in federal taxes each year? (Audience: Zero.) That is your math, Iowa — $20 billion out, zero back … The most common job in your state is retail clerk. A 39-year-old woman makes between $9 and $10 per hour.”

Conclusion: The overall sentiment about Amazon’s impact on retail and that the company pays little in taxes is on point, but we could not find support for some of Yang’s claims, including that Amazon is “soaking up $20 billion in business each year.” While experts suggest we will see a 30 percent reduction in shopping malls in the future, data does not support we are there yet. Yang was mostly correct in his assessment of retail workers in Iowa.

Fact Checker graded Yang’s claims a C.

Claim: In a TV ad, Yang claimed drug companies say they need high prices to fund research. “The truth? Most FDA-approved drugs rely on research funded by the government. That means you paid for it.”


Conclusion: Yang, who said in the ad that he would eliminate “loopholes that let drug companies charge too much” as president, was right that public funding is behind most if not all FDA-approved drugs.

But the pharmaceutical industry also provides critical research funding — often from other drug profits. That caveat earned Yang a B.


The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads 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

This roundup was compiled by Molly Duffy, Erin Jordan, B.A. Morelli and Michaela Ramm.

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