Fact Checker

Fact Checker: RNC's attack on Finkenauer misses the mark

Portion of a Republican National Committee video ad criticizing U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer. (Image from RNC advertisement)
Portion of a Republican National Committee video ad criticizing U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer. (Image from RNC advertisement)

The Republican National Committee has been airing a TV attack ad in Iowa against U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer for the past month.

Claim: “Instead of fixing health care and lowering drug prices, Finkenauer votes with the radicals for endless investigations of President Trump, wasting tax dollars. Instead of working to create more jobs, Finkenauer wants more hearings.”

Analysis

Video of the ad was posted Oct. 1 to the GOP Twitter account. It paints an unfavorable picture of the freshman Democratic lawmaker, who represents Iowa’s 1st Congressional District.

Graded a D

The claim is linked with the impeachment inquiry taking place in the U.S. House. A tweet from the official GOP account containing the ad also linked an impeachment defense fund jointly operated between President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the RNC.

The Fact Checker team reached out to the RNC to find out what sources of information it used for the ad, but did not receive a response. At one point, the team did connect with a spokeswoman from the Iowa chapter of the RNC, who said she would help facilitate. But she did not call back or respond to follow-up emails.

Without the RNC providing its sourcing to back up the ad, the Fact Checker team will do its best to check these claims using available information.

Claim 1: “Instead of fixing health care and lowering drug prices ...”, and “instead of working to create more jobs ...”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

First, we looked into Finkenauer’s voting record and found she has supported legislation on health care and job creation since assuming office in January. So far she has sponsored 10 bills, including two that would adjust Medicare reimbursement rates, H.R. 3302 and H.R. 3445.

This past month, the Fact Checker team found a political action committee’s claim about Finkenauer’s efforts to lower prescription drug costs by increasing access to generic medications to be accurate.

Finkenauer has also sponsored H.R. 246, legislation aimed at helping rural small businesses compete for government contracts and research grants.

She also co-sponsored H.R. 2755, or the Buy America 2.0 Act, which would extend the Hoover-era legislation that requires government agencies to prefer U.S.-made products.

Claim 2: “Finkenauer votes with the radicals ...”

The text “Finkenauer votes with the radicals” superimposed images of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. The latter three are members of “The Squad,” four progressive Democratic congresswomen elected in 2018.

For the most part, Finkenauer does vote in-line with Ocasio-Cortez, Omar and Tlaib, according to a database created by ProPublica and Google News Initiative to track voting records.

She and Ocasio-Cortez have agreed on 92 percent of votes in the 2019-2020 Congress, disagreeing only on 47 votes out of a total of 562.

Finkenauer disagreed with Omar on 45 votes out of 540, and she has disagreed with Tlaib on 43 of 558 total votes.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The database showed Finkenauer voted more in line with five female military veterans also elected in the 2018 race who are more moderate-leaning Democrats: Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. Finkenauer’s votes agreed with these lawmakers’ 94-95 percent in the past year.

In addition, Finkenauer seldom votes against Democratic Party lines, with only 4 percent of her total votes straying from the party, according to the database.

Most of Finkenauer’s votes mostly are in line with the Democratic majority in the House, not explicitly tied to the more liberal-leaning congresswomen shown in the ad.

Claim 3: “ ... endless investigations of President Trump ...”, “Finkenauer wants more hearings.”

The ad began airing shortly after the formal impeachment inquiry into Trump began in September, which was launched without a full House vote. Finkenauer — who sits on the House Committee on Small Business and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure — is not a part of the committees currently undertaking the impeachment inquiry.

Finkenauer did vote in favor of a House resolution calling for a whistle-blower complaint of Trump’s call to the Ukrainian president — the center of the impeachment inquiry — be given to the intelligence committee.

She, along with Iowa’s other Democratic representatives, has publicly stated support for the inquiry to media outlets, including The Gazette and Radio Iowa.

Finkenauer did not join calls for impeachment during the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, but was supportive of Congress’ role in investigating the allegations, she told The Gazette in May.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Back in March, she voted in favor of a resolution that called for Mueller’s report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election to be made public.

Finkenauer also does not sit on the House Intelligence Committee, which released a report supporting U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings on Russian interference in the election.

Conclusion

In recent weeks. Finkenauer has voiced her support of the impeachment inquiry taking place in the House. Even so, she has not been actively involved in investigations into Trump, as she does not sit on the committees undertaking those efforts.

The Iowa congresswoman’s record shows she is working on issues related to health care and job creation, despite the ad’s claims.

Most of Finkenauer’s votes do line up with the congresswomen depicted in the ad as “radicals,” but they line up at an even higher rate with more moderate Democrats. It’s a stretch to imply she is following The Squad’s lead.

Although most sources contradict the RNC’s ad, certain claims are technically correct but lack context. We give this claim a D overall.

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 Michaela Ramm of The Gazette.

Give us feedback

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.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Want to join the conversation?

Consider subscribing to TheGazette.com and participate in discussing the important issues to our community with other Gazette subscribers.

Already a Gazette or TheGazette.com subscriber? Just login here with your account email and password.

Give us feedback

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.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.