Politifact: Fact-checkers took on Georgia’s U.S. Senate race and guns

It’s Labor Day weekend, the traditional kickoff of election season.

But it seems like the political ads have been running since April.

Turns out, they have.

And you can expect to see plenty more of them in the weeks before the Nobember election.

This past week, PolitiFact Georgia fact-checkers looked at ads about Points of Light, the program founded by President George H.W. Bush and run until recently by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn.

The AJC Truth-O-Meter also took on a pundit’s comments on racial justice and police force in the aftermath of the Ferguson Mo. case. And we looked at a new report suggesting Georgia’s debt may be out of whack. We finished the week with a fact-check about automatic weapons.

Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below.

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


Michelle Nunn on Thursday, August 7th, 2014 in television ad

Points of Light is “the world’s largest volunteer organization.”

In a new television ad, Michelle Nunn, a Democrat, criticizes the business tactics of millionaire David Perdue, her Republican opponent in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

The TV ad begins by introducing Nunn as “CEO of the world’s largest volunteer organization.”

Nunn was hired as CEO of Points of Light in 2007, when the nonprofit merged with the Hands on Network, a group she helped to co-found and ran.

Points of Light had 4 million volunteers worldwide in 2012, and the Red Cross worldwide had 17.1 million. We found other national groups who were reporting even larger numbers of volunteers.

Points of Light has used the title “world’s largest volunteer organization” before at least twice. But these days, its leaders are pretty careful to refer to it as “the largest organization in the world dedicated to volunteer service.” That title seems to fit what’s been described as Points of Lights’ mission — connecting volunteers with service projects.

Nunn has used her stewardship of the non-profit to burnish her leadership credentials in the race against businessman Perdue.

But her political ad undercuts how Points of Light describes itself on its website — as “the largest organization in the world dedicated to volunteer service.” That’s substantially different from the world’s largest volunteer organization.

We rated the statement as Mostly False.

Truth in Accounting Financial State of the States report, released Aug. 4th, 2014.

Each Georgia taxpayer would have to send $5,000 to the treasury to cover the state’s debt.

The nonpartisan think tank Truth in Accounting in Chicago has released a study blasting Georgia for carrying a nearly $16 million debt burden, mostly from unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities. It ranks Georgia’s financial condition as the 28th worst among all states.

“In order to fill this financial hole, each Georgia taxpayer would have to send $5,000 to the state’s treasury,” according to a summary of the study.

But how is it the state have both a balanced budget requirement and that kind of debt?

In Georgia, pension funding is governed by state law, which requires an actuary to calculate the annual required minimum contribution to meet the long-term obligation.

As of 2013, Georgia also adds extra cash to that minimum, amortized over 25 years, to fill the gap.

The state sets aside that money first, before determining the rest of the budget.

It has never failed to do so. The ERS – which covers 60,000 active members and 45,000 retirees – was 71.4 percent funded in 2013.

The statement suggests that the state is being reckless, or that a one-time payment is coming soon.

That is not the case. Georgia has been thoughtful about its looming obligations and positioned itself to pay down those debts over time.

For that reason, we rated the claim Mostly False.

Juan Williams on Sunday, August 24th, 2014 in comments on Fox News Sunday

No. 1 cause of death for African-American males ages 15 to 34 is murder

Amid ongoing protests in Ferguson, Mo., the national conversation about racial justice and police force has ignored a critical point that needs to be discussed, said Fox News pundit Juan Williams

Civil rights activists and black leaders have failed to address the very thing that’s fueling conservative, white backlash — the high crime rate among the black community, particularly among young black men, Williams said on Aug. 24th’s Fox News Sunday.

claim that homicide is the No. 1 cause of death for black men 15-34 years old.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, homicide was indeed the No. 1 killer of black men between the ages of 15 and 34 in 2011. Accidents ranked second in causes of death, and suicide claimed the third amount of black male lives between 15 and 24 years old, while heart disease ranked third for men 24-34.

We rated Williams’ claim True.

CNN’s Don Lemmon, August 20th, 2014 in a live broadcast

“I was able to go and buy an automatic weapon … Most people can go out and buy an automatic weapon.”

Fans of the Second Amendment have been chiding Lemon for his comments about the sorts of guns you can legally buy in this country. They’ve said Lemon was confused.

Lemon spoke as though the gun he had purchased was an automatic.

It was not. It was a semi-automatic, meaning each shot requires a separate pull of the trigger. The ease of purchase that Lemon described applies to semi-automatic guns.

The legal status and availability of semi-automatic and fully automatic guns are quite different.

Acquiring a machine gun is prohibited in some states, while much more heavily regulated in others.

We rated Lemon’s claim False.

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This article was edited for length. To see a complete version and its sources go to www.politifact.com/georgia/.