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As the debate around President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus bill continues in Congress, a new advertisement airing in Iowa takes Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to task over her position on COVID-19 relief.
Produced by Tax March Iowa and supported by several other liberal groups in the state, the ad makes a series of claims to conclude billionaires 'hit the jackpot” while Iowans in need of relief get 'jack squat” with Republican Miller-Meeks, who represents Iowa's 2nd Congressional District.
The other groups supporting the ad include Progress Iowa, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans, Iowa Main Street Alliance, Indivisible Iowa and Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
The Gazette reached out to Tax March for additional sourcing for the claims but did not receive a response.
Tax March is a part of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based liberal advocacy group that received $56.7 million in contributions during the 2020 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' website.
Claim 1: 'During this pandemic, the rich got richer and the well-to-do are doing pretty well.”
The ad cites a July 22, 2020, commentary on Forbes called 'The Rich are Getting Richer During the Pandemic.” The article, written by a job recruiter, points to increased wealth of the leaders of Amazon, Facebook and other large companies during the pandemic. It does not include any data to show that wealthy people have gotten wealthier across the board, though.
But data from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System does show increases in wealth among the richest 1 percent.
The total net worth of the wealthiest 1 percent increased from $31.4 trillion in the first quarter of 2020 to $36.2 trillion in the third quarter of 2020, the most recent quarter of data available. It is also above the $34.7 trillion from the fourth quarter of 2019, the last quarter completely unaffected by COVID-19.
The share of total net wealth owned by the richest 1 percent also increased from 30 percent in the first quarter of 2020 to 31 percent in the third quarter of 2020, according to the Fed data. It is not quite as high as it was in the fourth quarter of 2019, though, when it was at 31.1 percent.
We give this claim an A.
Claim 2: 'Even though there's only one billionaire in Iowa, Mariannette Miller-Meeks supports giving billionaires huge tax breaks for private jets and yachts.”
According to Forbes' interactive billionaire map, Iowa's only billionaire is Harry Stine, the founder of Stine Seeds. Stine lives in Adel, which is not part of Miller-Meeks' district.
The ad cites a 2018 Business Insider article about former President Donald Trump's tax plan allowing private jet buyers to deduct 100 percent of the cost from their taxes.
Miller-Meeks was not in Congress when the tax bill became law in 2017 and therefore did not vote on it and likely had no say on the private jet and yacht tax breaks.
Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Oct. 21 while campaigning with Miller Meeks that the Ottumwa Republican would work to preserve the Trump tax cuts, according to a Quad-City Times article.
Trump's tax reform law had many components to it, so that doesn't necessarily mean she supports 'huge tax breaks” for private jets and yachts.
We give this claim a D.
Claim 3: 'But for Iowans who lost their job, she voted against sending more relief.”
It references a Feb. 3 budget resolution that cleared the way for Democrats to pass Biden's COVID-19 relief bill. Biden's relief bill includes $1,400 direct payments to each tax filer and their dependents, unemployment assistance and about $350 billion in aid for local, state and tribal governments.
Miller-Meeks, along with Iowa's two other Republican representatives, voted against the resolution.
'I am disappointed that Congressional leaders brought a partisan budget resolution to the floor costing $1.9 trillion of taxpayer dollars,” Miller-Meeks told the Quad-City Times.
She said Democrats were pushing 'partisan issues” like a higher minimum wage and 'bailouts for state governments.”
While Miller-Meeks voted against sending more relief, she co-signed a letter to Biden on Jan. 20 about wanting to work with him on 'targeted, meaningful coronavirus relief.”
We give this claim an A.
With one D and two As, we gave these claims a B overall. Miller-Meeks voted against COVID-19 relief while the rich have gotten richer, but saying she instead supports tax breaks for private jets and yachts greatly exaggerates the circumstances.
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.
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This Fact Checker was researched and written by John Steppe of The Gazette.