TRUTH TEST: Pawlenty Ad Attacking Johnson Misleading

October 17, 2018 11:01 AM

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty comes out swinging in his first television ad of the 2018 primary campaign.

"Who is Jeff Johnson?" the ad asks, while quickly following with an answer.

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"He's a career politician who taxes and spends a lot."

TRUTH TEST: Ad Attacking Pawlenty Makes Health Care Claims

There's little question Johnson has made a "career" in politics since 2001. He served several years in the Minnesota House of Representative, and since 2009 he has been on the Hennepin County Board.

However, to call Johnson a "politician who taxes and spends a lot" is a stretch.

When he was in the Minnesota Legislature, Johnson had a 95 percent rating from the conservative Taxpayers League of Minnesota. On the Hennepin County Board, he's known for handing out "Golden Fire Hydrant Awards" to highlight wasteful or excessive government spending.

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The ad does highlight three situations where Pawlenty claims Johnson has favored tax increases or more spending.

"As a Hennepin County Commissioner Johnson didn't just vote for a massive property tax increase, he proposed one," according to the ad.

It is true that in 2009 Johnson proposed a three percent property tax increase. However, he proposed it only as an alternative to a 4.8 percent increase that was on the verge of passing. Johnson's amendment was voted down.

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The higher tax increase passed with Johnson as the lone vote against it.

"Johnson then supported Governor Dayton's plan to expand the state sales tax to auto repairs, babysitting and more," the Pawlenty TV ad says, citing an op-ed piece Johnson wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper in 2013.

It is true that for a time Johnson did support part of Governor Dayton's tax plan that would have expanded the sales tax to some services not currently taxed.

"The governor did propose a controversial, but wise, change to Minnesota's sales tax," Johnson wrote.

However, he went on to say the sales tax rate should be lowered as it's expanded to some services. He later withdrew his support when the governor proposed extending it to "business-to-business" sales taxes.

The final claim in the ad refers to the controversial Affordable Care Act.

"Jeff Johnson supported spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money to support Obamacare," the ad says.

This might be the most misleading claim in the ad. Johnson did vote to support an effort to get millions of dollars in a federal grant through the Affordable Care Act so a county-operated clinic could expand.

However, Johnson has been an outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act and said he voted for the funding so the county wouldn't lose out.

"I have some reservations," Johnson said at that county board meeting. "I think it's a very vague plan....but the timing of it we simply need to move forward with it or risk losing a potential grant."

This ad includes a mix of true, false and misleading information. However, even the "true" information is taken so out of context that it leads to a false overall impression of Jeff Johnson's stance on taxes and spending.

This ad by the Pawlenty for Governor campaign gets a D+ on the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS "Truth Test."

Credits

Tom Hauser

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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