PolitiFact: The Roundup

PolitiFact Georgia and the AJC Truth-O-Meter ventured into the federal budget for a couple of fact checks this week. For another check, we stayed a little closer to home — our own backyard.

We researched a claim by Georgia’s former secretary of state-turned U.S. Senate candidate about wasteful spending in Washington. Her claim about money spent to train Moroccans to make pottery put a bit of a spin on the numbers. We also checked a claim by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed about the city’s popularity as a top tourist destination. And our national PolitiFact colleagues reviewed another claim about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This time the claim involved whether employee unions are on board with the health care law.

Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below. Full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/.

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Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed: Atlanta now has as many visitors as Las Vegas, San Diego and Los Angeles. Orlando, Fla., and New York City still have more visitors.

Reed made this claim while touting his city’s tourism numbers during a radio interview earlier this month. Reed said attractions such as the new SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel and the upcoming College Football Hall of Fame (scheduled to open in fall 2014) are helping Atlanta become even more of a tourist destination.

The mayor based his claim on 2012 information from the city’s convention and visitors bureau. The CVB’s data are provided by a third-party research firm that conducts household surveys to determine Atlanta’s visitation numbers. A comparison of the other cities’ 2012 tourism numbers supports Reed’s claim.

But there is no industry-accepted standard for calculating tourism. Each city, tourism office and research company uses its own methods and search criteria. Other industry research firms say Reed’s claim appears correct. But there is really no concrete way to tell.

The mayor’s statement needs that bit of detail to clarify his claim.

We rated the statement Mostly True.

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U.S. Senate hopeful Karen Handel: “Only in Washington would politicians spend $27 million to teach Moroccans how to make pottery.”

Handel, one of several candidates for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat, made this claim on her “Only in Washington” website highlighting alleged government waste.

Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, plans to feature 42 instances of egregious spending. This claim was No. 8. It has been a popular touchstone for conservatives looking to shine a light on government waste.

But the facts show that the $27 million was for an entire economic development program in Morocco, of which the pottery training was only a fraction of the cost — about 8 percent of the total program. That amount, $2.2 million, could still be considered a large expense for pottery training and promotion, but it is not close to the $27 million that Handel claimed.

Her overall point that the program was a failure is supported by an inspector general’s audit that found that the pottery training was mismanaged, poorly organized and ineffective.

Her statement contained an element of truth but overstated the cost and ignored critical facts that would have given a different impression.

We rated Handel’s claim Mostly False.

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U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah: Says unions call Obamacare “bad for workers.”

A small but vocal cadre of congressional Republicans would like to defund the Affordable Care Act — commonly referred to as Obamacare — and would be willing to risk a government shutdown to make that happen. Lee has been a leading voice in the U.S. Senate. He made this claim earlier this month in a USA Today op-ed.

Our PolitiFact national colleagues researched the claim and found that at least six unions have warned that Obamacare will undercut health care coverage for their members. Evidence suggests that more unions share that view.

Some large unions, however, continue to support Obamacare. And while Lee would like to do away with the new health care law, even unions with deep concerns seek to fix the law, not repeal it. Still, a significant number of prominent unions spoke against the law as it now stands, and not every union would need to feel that way in order for his statement to be accurate.

We rated Lee’s claim Mostly True.

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