PolitiFact: Sometimes claims turn out to be facts

PolitiFact attempts to parse political truth from political fiction.

We find plenty of fiction. But it’s important to remember that PolitiFact Georgia also discovers that politicians and power brokers sometimes hit the nail squarely on the head.

PolitiFact Georgia published more than 240 fact checks in 2013,and 37 of those rated True on the AJC Truth-O-Meter. That compared with 26 that were rated False and 17 that earned our lowest designation, Pants On Fire. The remainder fell in the Mostly True, Half True and Mostly False categories.

Today we look at our favorite fact checks of 2013 where the politicians got it right.

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Full versions of the fact checks can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/.

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Gov. Nathan Deal: Since taking office in January 2011, "the 'rainy day' fund has increased by 226 percent."

The state of Georgia, as does most governments, keeps a reserve or “rainy day fund” in case it needs extra money.

During his State of the State address, Deal’s Twitter page offered some specifics.

“The ‘rainy day’ fund has increased by 226 percent” since he took office, Deal’s staff tweeted.

Amid budget cuts and a sluggish economy, we wanted to know whether the governor and his staff were correct.

Most states currently have about 2 percent of their entire budget set aside for a rainy day fund, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Georgia has about 2 percent of its budget set aside in reserves.

We found nothing that contradicts the governor’s claim.

We rated it True.


Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed: Felony crimes in the city of Atlanta are the lowest they have been since 1969.

Reed successfully campaigned for mayor in 2009 with the goal of making Atlanta a safer city.

In his State of the City speech before hundreds of business leaders and elected officials from across the region, Reed was very specific about the drop in major crimes last year.

“Felony crimes are at the lowest they have been since 1969,” the mayor said.

This claim was listed second in a glossy pamphlet called “30 Accomplishments in 3 Years” with Reed’s picture on it.

Since public safety is such an important issue and Reed has highlighted this as an accomplishment, PolitiFact Georgia thought it would be worthwhile to fact-check whether the claim is correct.

Indeed, the number of reported felony crimes is at its lowest since 1969. It’s possible the felony crime rate was slightly lower in 1970 or 1971, depending upon which population data you use.

Since it is possible the felony crime rate was lower in 2012, we’re not going to quibble about 1970 or 1971.

We rated the mayor's claim True.


U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland: "It is against the law for the NSA to record or monitor Americans' phone calls without getting a specific FISA warrant to do so."

A Georgia congressman’s recent attempt to clarify the federal government’s powers in terms of electronic surveillance made us curious.

Westmoreland, a Republican from Coweta County, said Edward Snowden is flat-out wrong that contractors like him can eavesdrop on the phone calls of Americans whenever they want. Snowden is the former government contractor who caused an international stir by leaking National Security Agency documents about its surveillance program.

“That is a lie,” Westmoreland said of Snowden’s claims.

The congressman, who is a member of the House Committee on Intelligence, explained:

“It is against the law for the NSA to record or monitor Americans’ phone calls without getting a specific FISA warrant to do so, based on compelling evidence of a connection to terrorism. Plain and simple,” Westmoreland wrote in an op-ed that we spotted on the Peach Pundit website.

We wondered whether the congressman was accurate when he wrote that the NSA cannot legally record or monitor Americans’ telephone calls without a specific FISA warrant.

Federal documents, congressional testimony and comments from the president support Westmoreland’s claim.

The rules are different if you’re not a U.S. citizen. But Westmoreland specifically referenced U.S. citizens.

We rated Westmoreland's claim True.


State Sen. Nan Orrock: "More than 80 percent of Americans believe we need to have universal background checks."

As part of their arsenal in the national debate on firearms, some gun control advocates say most Americans support their effort, including background checks.

Georgia state Sen. Nan Orrock, an Atlanta Democrat, made a specific claim about public support for such checks during a floor debate about Senate Bill 101, which she feared would expand access to guns.

“More than 80 percent of Americans believe we need to have universal background checks,” Orrock said.

In each recent poll PolitiFact Georgia reviewed, the public support for universal background checks was well above 80 percent.

We rated Orrock's claim True.