PolitiFact: The Roundup

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.

The Truth-O-Meter put to the test last week the claim that gave Republicans a chuckle — that the Clintons were “broke” when they left the White House.

Fact-checkers also looked at the dispute over whether Fulton County commissioners can legally approve a tax increase and at claims about Georgia’s changing demographics. The latest claims in the governor’s race over funding for public education hit the meter, as well.

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State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta: More than 1.5 million people moved into Georgia between the past two census counts, and a majority consider themselves African-American, Latino or Asian-American.

We examined U.S. census data to look at the accuracy of the claim Abrams made June 13 in The Huffington Post. It showed the population in Georgia grew from 8,186,453 in 2000 to 9,687,653 a decade later, for a difference of about 1.5 million people. The census also found that the number of nonwhites had increased in that same period from 3,057,772 to 4,273,733, or by about 1.2 million.

That means 1.2 million of the 1.5 million new people in Georgia between census counts were nonwhite – or 81 percent. So Abrams was on the mark.

The significance of those changes, though, don’t immediately translate into similar shifts in the makeup of the state’s voters. If the point is to identify and register more would-be voters, more refined numbers about citizenship and age would be needed.

We rated Abrams’ statement as Mostly True.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.”

When Clinton made the claim June 9 on ABC, Republicans called it laughable.

Clinton later clarified that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had done very well over the past 14 years.

We looked at Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate financial disclosure form, via the Open Secrets website, which shows the Clintons were in the red, a problem driven by Bill Clinton’s enormous legal bills. The most optimistic scenario left them in a hole of about $500,000.

In 1999, they bought a five-bedroom home in Chappaqua, N.Y., for $1.7 million. In December 2000, just as they were leaving the White House, they bought a seven-bedroom house near Embassy Row in Washington. The price was $2.85 million.

While those homes had mortgages, which would increase the amount of the Clintons’ debt, the family also had equity in them. This hardly fits the common meaning of “dead broke.”

We rated Clinton’s claim as Mostly False.

State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell: It would be illegal for the Fulton County Commission to raise the county tax rate.

Fulton County is taking steps to raise its tax rate for the first time since 1991.

Leaders in Georgia’s largest county say the state constitution was on their side when they voted last year to repeal a property tax cap that affects only Fulton.

But state lawmakers point to House Bill 604, which bars Fulton from raising taxes until 2015.

“Contrary to law, the Fulton County Commission has taken preliminary action to move forward to increase property taxes,” Albers wrote in an June 14 email blast to constituents. “This is both illegal and immoral.”

Only courts can rule on whether a law is legal. So that decision isn’t up to Albers any more than it is to the County Commission, regardless of common understanding of the word.

We rated Albers’ statement as Mostly True.

Georgia Republican Party: “Even when all other state agencies took cuts, Gov. (Nathan) Deal increased education spending every year.”

Education has become a key battleground issue in Georgia’s race for governor. Republicans are touting what they see as Deal’s accomplishments. Democrats are hammering what they see as the governor’s shortcomings.

State GOP leaders weighed in again with a June 4 press release.

The data confirm Deal has increased spending for education in each budget — for a combined $868.6 million since taking office. Something to consider is austerity cuts, which have hit education since 2003 and persist. The state’s budget chief confirmed our research, which showed that it was an overreach to say that all other state agencies had budget cuts at the same time education spending was being increased by Deal.

We rated the Georgia GOP’s statement Mostly False.