Fact Checker

Fact Checker: Challenger takes on state Sen. Bowman

Carrie Koelker of Dyersville is recognized at a gathering sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa at the Marriott in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 30, 2018. Koelker is a Republican candidate for Iowa Senate District 29, a seat currently held by  Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Carrie Koelker of Dyersville is recognized at a gathering sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa at the Marriott in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 30, 2018. Koelker is a Republican candidate for Iowa Senate District 29, a seat currently held by Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Introduction

“He voted to give taxpayer funded benefits to illegal immigrants.”

“Voted to spend your tax dollars on a golf tournament at a ritzy West Des Moines country club. He even voted to spend millions on furniture for the Des Moines courthouse.”

“Bowman voted 53 times for handouts to special interests, but when he had a chance to give a tax cut to middle class families, he voted no.”

Source of claims

The TV ad “Facts” airing in Eastern Iowa was approved by Republican Carrie Koelker in her campaign against state Sen. Tod Bowman (D) in District 29 in Dubuque, Jones and Jackson counties.

ANALYSIS

Claim 1: “He voted to give taxpayer funded benefits to illegal immigrants.”

This claim is based on Bowman’s vote against an amendment to a 2013 budget bill funding the Iowa Department of Human Services. The failed amendment would have required Human Services to confirm the Social Security number of all recipients of taxpayer-funded programs of the department, like Medicaid and food stamps.

However, each of those programs is open only to legal U.S. citizens and legal immigrants or refugees. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible, though they could apply on behalf of their children with legal immigration status.

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Bowman’s vote could not have given additional benefits to undocumented immigrants because of other restrictions in place for Human Services programs. That’s why this claim gets an F.

Claim 2: “Voted to spend your tax dollars on a golf tournament at a ritzy West Des Moines country club.”

The Des Moines Golf and Country Club hosted the 2017 LPGA Solheim Cup — a competition between U.S. and European golfers. A 2014 appropriations bill for the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund initially included $500,000 meant to launch a promotional campaign highlighting Iowa as the host of the tournament.

That funding was removed from the final version that was signed into law, but not before Bowman voted for the original version. This claim gets an A.

Claim 3: “He even voted to spend millions on furniture for the Des Moines courthouse.”

The Polk County Courthouse is undergoing an $81 million renovation, which taxpayers there approved in 2013. It included adding a new Justice Center, expanding the criminal court building as well as adding space inside the historic courthouse.

As part of its annual budget, the Iowa Judicial Branch requested and received $6.7 million from the Legislature for furnishings and technology at the courthouse. Iowa Code requires state funding pay for furnishings at county courthouses.

While Bowman voted to approve the budget bill that included the funding for furniture, the portrayal in the ad makes it appear the funding could come from somewhere else. That’s why this claim gets a ‘B’.

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Claim 4: “Bowman voted 53 times for handouts to special interests.”

The Iowa Republican Party provided a list of 53 bills Bowman supported from 2011 through 2017. Each one included funding for various tax credits and grant programs across the state, including housing tax credits, tax credits for renewable fuels and grants through the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund. Not all of them became law.

Tax credits and grant programs are pervasive in Iowa with both parties using them to support various policies or industries for a variety of reasons. In 2015, the most recent state review of tax credit programs, there were 233 various tax credit programs.

While Bowman is far from alone in voting to fund various special interests and the phrasing makes it sound more nefarious than it actually is, this claim gets an ‘A.’

Claim 5: “But when he had a chance to give a tax cut to middle class families, he voted no.”

This claim refers to the state income tax cut package Republicans approved this past legislative session. The average Iowan will save about $300 per year, according to an analysis from the Iowa Department of Revenue. All income levels would see a decrease in their taxes, though those making less than $30,000 a year or more than $250,000 a year will see a higher percentage of savings.

Bowman voted against the bill and many Democrats point to the higher savings for higher incomes as a reason not to call it a middle-class tax cut. However, middle class families will see a savings, which is why this claim gets an ‘A.’

CONCLUSION

The ad overall makes it appear Bowman is wasting taxpayer money with these votes but most of them are commonplace for the Legislature. Worse, the claim about giving benefits to illegal immigrants completely mischaracterizes the amendment and Bowman’s vote. So despite having some factual basis, the poor context is why this ad gets a C.

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Criteria

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 factchecker@thegazette.com.

This Fact Checker was researched and written by Adam Carros of KCRG-TV.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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