U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, in the crosshairs of the Tea Party as too moderate for southwest Michigan, is fending off an attack by Club for Growth Action, a conservative super PAC with “a single mission: Beating big-government politicians.”
Lately, they’ve aimed a couple of 30-second spots at Upton’s record, and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has responded with one supporting Upton and condemning “out-of-state special interest groups.”
How do the dueling spots stand up to scrutiny? Let’s start with the Chamber’s pro-Upton spot:
Upton is portrayed as a legislator who “fights big government” by voting no on Obamacare, which is true; Upton was part of the united Republican front that voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
Did he “oppose Obama’s super committee spending spree?” Hmm. Depends on how you define “oppose” – as one of the 12 members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the super committee’s formal name, he was a party to its failure to agree on how $1.5 trillion could be trimmed from the deficit. However, given that the committee met in private, it’s hard to know what, exactly, he did.
Upton is also credited with investigating a “shady loan to Solyndra,” the solar-power firm whose failure embarrassed the Obama administration. And while he did vote to subpoena the White House as part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigation of Solyndra, other sources have noted that he was reluctant to follow more hard-right members into the fray. And the Washington Post reported last fall that Upton was a signatory to “a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu in December 2009 recommending Auburn Hills-based United Solar Ovonics for a loan under President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.” United Solar Ovonics’ parent company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the company will likely be sold. American solar-energy firms have struggled since the collapse in the price of polysilicon, used in most panels, which allowed heavily subsidized Chinese firms to undercut competitors.
As for Club for Growth Action, they range far and wide to call Upton a “liberal,” unearthing votes from as far back as 1996 to paint him as a big spender. The cited votes, nine in all, check out as true, but leave out a lot of gray areas. Yes, he voted for the Wall Street bailout, but back then it was called the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, and for good reason – the banking system was teetering on the brink of collapse, and a lot of fiscal conservatives supported it. Did he vote to “make Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bigger?” It's difficult to tell from the vote citations. Upton did vote for the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2005, which was never enacted. A later version combined three agencies and later put Fannie and Freddie under its umbrella, a law signed by President George W. Bush and backed by his treasury secretary, Henry Paulson.
Did he vote for “billions in wasteful earmark spending, like Alaska’s ‘bridge to nowhere?’” You say tomato, Truth Squad says tomahto. In this case, the tomato is the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, a big ol’ omnibus of a highway spending ($244.1 billion) bill with a catchy acronym (SAFETEA-LU, get it?), and while it did include the infamous “bridge to nowhere” earmark, it contained zillions of others, including a few for Michigan. Only nine members of the House voted against it. This is how legislation that big gets done. As we reported earlier, Rick Santorum, fending off his own bridge-to-nowhere-vote charge, said, "Who am I in Pennsylvania to tell Alaska what their highway priorities should be?” He has a point.
Upton did vote to raise the debt limit, but as we’ve pointed out before, these used to be routine matters in Washington, as a way to keep the government meeting its financial obligations. Such votes only became newsworthy in the past year, when energized Republicans used the debt-limit vote to paint the Obama administration as heedless spenders.
Finally, they claim Upton voted against a proposed $350 billion cut in the stimulus package. The cited vote is for an amendment to an appropriations bill, which later passed without Upton's support. His staff spokeswoman, Meghan Kolassa, replied to Truth Squad questions in an email: "Club for Growth is trying to give the impression that he supported some of the stimulus spending, but that is wholly inaccurate, because Fred voted against the entire stimulus."
Foul or no foul:
Multiple calls for multiple players. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce gets a technical for glossing over the secret activities of the super committee, and for painting Upton as leading the charge on Solyndra when the record suggests he didn't. The Club for Growth gets a foul for painting all earmarks as wasteful; just because spending occurs in another district doesn't make it wasteful. They're also called for recasting emergency relief for the financial system as "the Wall Street bailout," among other oversimplifications. Benched, all of you.