Fact-checkers investigate campaign claims about terrorism, education

The goal of the Truth-O-Meter is to reflect the relative accuracy of a statement.

The meter has six ratings, in decreasing level of truthfulness:

TRUE — The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

MOSTLY TRUE — The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

HALF TRUE — The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

MOSTLY FALSE — The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

FALSE — The statement is not accurate.

PANTS ON FIRE — The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

How does PolitiFact Georgia’s Truth-O-Meter work?

Our goal is to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution fact-check statements by local, state and national political leaders, including lobbyists and interest groups. We then rate them on the AJC Truth-O-Meter.

To fact-check a claim, reporters first contact the speaker to verify the statement. Next, the research begins. Reporters consult a variety of sources, including industry and academic experts. This research can take hours or a few days or even longer, depending on the claim. Reporters then compile the research into story form and include a recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling.

The fact check then moves on to a panel of veteran editors who debate the statement and the reporter’s recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling. The panel votes on a final ruling; majority prevails.

Voters go to the polls in less than six weeks to settle a slew of Georgia races, including in the high-profile contests for governor and U.S. senator.

PolitiFact Georgia’s fact-checkers have been busy truth-testing the claims and counterclaims of the candidates.

Last week, we looked at a claims about the state budget from a Libertarian from Cherokee County. We also checked out claims by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter on education. And we investigated a claim by Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue that Democrat Michelle Nunn’s game plan contained an admission that her charity funded terrorist-linked organizations.

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Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below.

Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com/georgia/.

David Perdue television ad, “Secure Our Borders,” Sept. 17, 2014

“Michelle Nunn’s own plan says she funded organizations linked to terrorists.”

A newly released television ad from Republican candidate David Perdue says: “Michelle Nunn’s own plan says she funded organizations linked to terrorists.”

Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey said the statement was based first on Nunn’s leaked campaign documents and then a National Review story following up on the leak as evidence of the terrorist connection.

The leaked memos included anticipated attacks in the campaign, including “service awards to inmates, terrorists” during Nunn’s Points of Light tenure.

Nunn’s camp correctly predicted the GOP would attack her on the issue.

MissionFish, a business that Points of Light owned until 2012, collected donations from eBay users for about 20,000 charities. One of those charities, Islamic Relief USA, received about $13,500 in donations from MissionFish and has partnered with the umbrella group Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) on disaster relief programs.

A top Israeli defense official has accused IRW of having links to the terrorist group Hamas, and in June, the defense minister banned it from operating there.

The U.S. State Department does not consider the group a terrorist organization or front.

The Perdue ad plainly misconstrues what the Nunn internal memos said.

We rate the Perdue ad claim Pants On Fire.

Republican Governors Association on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, in a television ad

Jason Carter “actually opposed more funding for education in the Senate.”

The ad refers to Carter’s vote in the most recent General Assembly session against the 2015 state budget.

The budget included austerity cuts to education, totaling $747 million. But the cuts were the smallest cuts since 2009 and, as such, were viewed by leaders in education as largely positive.

Republicans have been quick to point out that Carter voted in favor of Deal’s three prior state budgets, each with $1 billion-plus in austerity cuts.

Carter says he has always backed more money for education.

This past spring, when Deal signed the 2015 budget into law, Carter explained his opposition was rooted in a belief that having a separate education budget would restore all, not just some, of the previous cuts.

“Budgets reflect values, and this budget shows that Gov. Deal does not value our students, teachers and classrooms,” Carter said in a statement in April.

The statement from the Republican Governments Association needs added context but is largely on target.

We rated the GOP claim Mostly True.

Jeff Amason on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, on “The Monica Perez Show,” News 95.5 & AM 750 WSB

“The state budget has increased almost $800 million a year in each of the last two years.”

Jeff Amason, a Libertarian and write-in candidate for the state District 21 House seats, has voiced concerns about state spending.

“The state budget has increased almost $800 million a year in each of the last two years. You can only imagine what it might be in five years,” Amason said during a recent radio interview.

We confirmed the accuracy of Amason’s claims, relying on state budget documents. State spending grew from $18.5 billion in 2012 to $19.3 billion in 2013 and to $20.2 billion in 2014.

Helping to drive up the recent state budgets were increases in enrollment in public schools, Medicaid and the state’s health insurance program for children, as well as pension costs, according to state documents.

We rated Amason’s statement True.

Jason Carter on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, in press conference

Georgia can substantially increase its funding for education by going after $2.5 billion in uncollected taxes.

Jason Carter, the Democratic nominee for governor, has promised to take a three-pronged approach to increasing funding for education by growing the economy, cutting government waste and going after tax cheats.

He cites a January report from the state Department of Audits and Accounts, showing that delinquent taxpayers owe the state about $2.5 billion.

Some are dubious about how successful such efforts would be. Even the auditor’s report points out that about $815 million of the $2.5 billion is at least 15 years old — making it much harder to collect.

Former Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham identified 420,693 taxpayers who owed a combined $1.6 billion as of September 2003, some dating to 1988.

A two-year vigorous enforcement campaign by his agency resulted in collection of $172.5 million — just 11 percent of what was owed.

We rated Carter’s statement as Half True.