In his latest ad, Republican Senate hopeful Mike McFadden is employing a classic campaign tactic against Sen. Al Franken by linking him to an unpopular president.
The ad features a Franken look-alike unsuccessfully backing a boat into a Minnesota lake.
“Al Franken keeps missing the mark,” the ad states.
“Franken has a 97 percent voting record with President Obama, over 40 votes for higher taxes. And Franken cast the deciding vote for Obamacare.”
Like many stories told near boat landings, McFadden’s ad stretches the truth.
Since Franken became a senator in 2009, he has supported Obama an average of 97 percent of the time. That’s based on an annual scorecard produced by Congressional Quarterly.
And in some cases, Franken has voted for new tax increases or to preserve taxes. For instance, he voted for the Affordable Care Act, which includes new taxes on medical devices and on very generous health insurance plans. (Now, Franken says the device tax should be repealed.)
But most of the votes McFadden’s campaign cites are procedural. For instance, Franken voted in favor of tabling an amendment to the health care law that would have refunded fuel taxes for mobile mammogram vehicles. McFadden calls that a tax increase.
In other cases, Franken voted against tax cut amendments to a budget resolution – a non-binding budget blueprint that can’t be enforced by law.
So, to say that Franken voted 40 times for tax increases is a big stretch.
Finally, Franken’s role in passing the Affordable Care Act is a matter of debate.
After a protracted recount, Franken was sworn into office in July 2009, giving Senate Democrats the 60-person super majority they needed to avoid a filibuster over the health care bill.
But as the Star Tribune points out in a detailed timeline, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy died a month later and his replacement could have “just as easily be considered the ‘60th vote,’” as could other Senators who held out until they were satisfied with the bill.
Ultimately, the version of the bill that became law in the spring of 2010 was passed in the Senate by 56 votes, with Franken voting in favor.
There’s some truth to McFadden’s ad. On average, Franken votes in favor of Obama’s priorities most of the time. And Franken’s support of the Affordable Care Act was important (though other Senators could carry the distinction of being the bill’s “deciding vote,” too).
But the ad is ultimately misleading because it inflates the number of times Franken voted for tax increases by counting procedural votes and votes on non-binding bills.