Government

Fact Checker: Hubbell ad seeks to defend his business record

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell meets with elected officials, officials from the sheriff's office, local mental health care providers and lobbyists at the Linn County Sheriff's Office in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, while on a statewide mental health tour. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell meets with elected officials, officials from the sheriff's office, local mental health care providers and lobbyists at the Linn County Sheriff's Office in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, while on a statewide mental health tour. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Introduction

“The truth, when Fred Hubbell ran Younkers over 30 years ago, he added hundreds of jobs and invested in thousands of employees.”

“Fred and Charlotte have spent their lives investing in Iowa. Financing mental health beds and a Planned Parenthood clinic while the state slashed funding.”

“Kim Reynolds, she cut funding for Medicaid and mental health care while giving away huge tax breaks to out of state companies.”

Source of claims

The claims are made in a television ad put out by Fred Hubbell’s Democratic campaign for governor in response to an ad by GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds’ campaign currently airing in Iowa. In that ad, the Reynolds camp accuses Hubbell of business practices that hurt Iowans when he ran Younkers and its parent company, while accepting raises for himself. The Fact Check team gave that ad a “B.”

Analysis

We’ll take the claims in the Hubbell ad one at a time.

Claim 1: “The truth, when Fred Hubbell ran Younkers over 30 years ago, he added hundreds of jobs and invested in thousands of employees.”

Hubbell’s campaign says this statement is backed up in an Associated Press article from 1986 detailing Younkers’ purchase of Brandeis department stores.

At the time, Younkers employed 3,000 people and Brandeis about 1,500. In the article, Hubbell is quoted as saying the new company planned to add sales staff.

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But according to the Hubbell campaign and the AP article, the total employment after the merger was about 4,100, not 4,500. So while true that Younkers’ employment grew, it did so because of buying another company and adding its staff, not adding new jobs. This claim gets a “D.”

Claim 2: “ ... Financing mental health beds and a Planned Parenthood clinic while the state slashed funding.”

The Hubbells and their namesake foundation have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to both Planned Parenthood and to Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines to expand its mental health services. (We fact-checked a claim about the latter donation earlier this year). During that same time period, the state cut funding for Planned Parenthood, shifting it to other women’s health services, and closed at least two mental health facilities. The claim gets an “A.”

Claim 3: “Kim Reynolds, she cut funding for Medicaid …”

In Reynolds’s fiscal 2019 budget brief, it notes spending on Medicaid was cut by more than $400 million. The governor’s office argues the savings is from efficiencies from a privatized Medicaid system. Whether you call it a savings or a cut, the state did spend less and plans to spend less in the future. This part gets an “A.”

Claim 4: “…. and mental health care …”

The ad cites the closures of two state-run mental health facilities in 2015, while Reynolds was the lieutenant governor. It also notes a mental health facility was forced to close because its private grant ended and the state could not change Medicaid rules fast enough to save it — but not because of any funding cut by the Reynolds administration. As governor, Reynolds signed two bills into law this year to expand mental health funding for certain programs.

While Reynolds was a part of the Gov. Terry Branstad administration’s mental health cuts, she did not have the final say-so. As governor, we could not find any direct cuts in funding. We give this claim a “C.”

Claim 5: “ … while giving away huge tax breaks to out of state companies.”

The Reynolds administration has granted millions — $42 million in 2017 alone — worth of tax incentives to companies like Apple, Deere and Company and Pioneer. That is a common economic development tool given in exchange for promises of job creation. This claim gets an ‘A’.

Conclusion

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This ad has a lot of claims packed into a single ad. Most of it is accurate but a few items are taken out of context. That’s why this ad overall gets a “B.”

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder 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.

l This Fact Checker was researched and written by Adam Carros and Josh Scheinblum of KCRG-TV9.

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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.