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Campaign Ads are Flooding the Airwaves, but are Candidates Telling the Truth?

8:00 PM, Jul 29, 2010   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As we get closer to the election, you have no doubt noticed the increasing number of campaign ads on our air. They are coming in fast and furious, and they make claim after claim about the candidates' own records and those of their opponents. It's so much information, and frankly much of it is negative. But how much of it is fact and how much is spin?

To help you better prepare for the upcoming election season, we're starting something new here at First Coast News. We're calling it The Truth Test. We will take each campaign ad as it comes in and vet it. Are the statements in the ad true? Are they false? Are they opinion?

How will we do this?

First Coast News anchor Donna Deegan has been covering state politics for 25 years. She, along with a team dedicated to politics, will research each ad. We'll start by asking the candidates themselves for verification of their campaign statements. Then we'll research their answers, check their voting records, utilize the best fact checking sites, and we'll give all of it to you for your consideration.

We want you to be able to choose your candidates based on the best possible information. It's our hope that the Truth Test will provide the context you need to make the most informed choices.

Candidate material and responses will be presented on this site unedited, and in their entirety.

We'd like to hear from you as well. Friend First Coast News on Facebook and give us your thoughts .

Or send an email to ddeegan@firstcoastnews.com

Truth Test #1

Ad sponsored by Kendrick Meek (D), United States Congressman, Candidate for U.S. Senate, aimed at his democratic primary opponent, billionaire businessman Jeff Greene entitled "Meet the Real Jeff Greene."

 
Statement: Ran for Congress as a California Republican.
This is true.

Greene ran as a Republican in the 1982 Congressional elections. He doesn't dispute this. On the First Coast News program On Point, Greene confirmed this with our Shannon Ogden. Meek's campaign has also provided information on Greene's California voting record.

Supporting materials provided by the Meek campaign

Greene Says He's A Democrat, But Voter Registration Records Paint a Different Picture. On June 1, 2010, the Palm Beach Post reported that despite assertions by Greene that, "My parents raised me on Democratic principles and values," his voter registration history going back to 1977 told a different story.

The Post wrote:
Records from Palm Beach County and California going back to 1977 show Greene spent most of that time registered with no party affiliation and was once a Republican before moving back to Florida in 2008 and registering as a Democrat...As a 23-year-old in December 1977, Greene registered to vote with no party affiliation and listed an address in Century Village of West Palm Beach, the retirement community where his mother still lives. In February 1982, Greene registered to vote in Los Angeles County, Calif. Asked on the voter registration form to choose a political party, he bypassed the boxes for Republican, Democrat and other parties and checked "Decline to State." Sometime that year, Greene became a Republican. The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office could not find a record of Greene's switch, but Greene ran unsuccessfully in a 1982 Republican primary for a Los Angeles-area congressional seat. [Palm Beach Post, 6/1/2010]

Palm Beach Post: Greene Said He Was Registered as a Republican Before 1992 When He Registered as an Independent. On June 1, 2010, the Palm Beach Post reported, "In 1992, Greene registered to vote again in Los Angeles County from an address in Malibu. He again checked the 'Decline to State' box for his political party. On a section of the form that asks 'Have You Ever Been Registered to Vote?' Greene checked "'Yes' and stated that he'd been registered in Los Angeles as a Republican." [Palm Beach Post, 6/1/2010]

Statement: Moved to Florida two years ago.
This is true.

While Green did spend some time in Florida as a youth, he only became a full time Florida resident in 2008.

Politifact, a highly respected fact finding service provided by the St.Pete Times and the Miami Herald has a complete record of Greene's Florida residences, and his time spent in the state. 

Supporting materials provided by the Meek campaign

St. Petersburg Times: Greene Moved to Florida in the Last Two Years. On May 24, 2010, the St. Petersburg Times' PolitiFact reported, "Meek's claim was that Greene 'moved from California to Florida in the last two years' and that 'he would not legally be allowed to run for any other statewide office because he has not lived here long enough to meet the residency requirement.' We find this claim True." St. Petersburg Times, PolitiFact, 5/24/2010

Statement: Became a billionaire on Wall Street betting middle class families would lose their homes.
This is true.

Greene invested heavily in credit defaults swaps.

The Greene campaign did not respond directly to our request for information on this ad, but we are adding the link to Greene's website and his explanation of his involvement in credit default swaps. 

Supporting materials provides by the Meek Campaign:

  • Greene Specifically Bet on Florida Mortgages Failing. As Gregory Zuckerman details in "The Greatest Trade Ever," Jeff Greene, angered that the value of his investment in credit default swaps (CDS) was not increasing, said he specifically bet on mortgages from states including Florida to fail. Zuckerman explained:
    Greene had spent months picking out especially toxic polls of loans, mortgages with little equity behind them from states where housing seemed to be running into trouble. And yet, his CDS protection on the loans was barely moving.
    "This pool has more exposure to Florida and California, has lower FICO scores and more 'liar loans,' and yet is priced higher than the ABX." Greene told [Alan] Zafran, growing more animated. "Why?!?" [Zuckerman, The Greatest Trade Ever, 2009, p. 221]
  • Greene: CDS Bet "Wasn't A Hedge At All, It Just Turns Out to be an Excellent Investment." Appearing May 14, 2009 on CNBC, Jeff Greene said that by the time he invested in credit default swaps he "knew it wasn't a hedge when I got involved in it." Greene shed light on his thinking:
    "There's got to be something on Wall Street with all the new products around that I can do that will give me a hedge against my portfolio. So I went to look for a hedge. And as it turns out this wasn't really a hedge at all - this just turned out to be an excellent investment and I knew it wasn't a hedge when I got involved in it." [CNBC, "Subprime Success," 5/14/2009]

Statement: Helped fuel the economic meltdown.
This is opinion.

While most experts agree credit default swaps hastened the housing crisis, to take it all the way to Greene helping to fuel the economic meltdown is purely subjective.

Statement: Warren Buffett called Greene's scheme "financial weapons of mass destruction."
This is false.

Warren Buffett has never referred to Greene specifically. And in the Reuter's article cited as a source for the comments, Buffett is simply referring to credit swap defaults. Also, the statement here uses the word scheme. What Greene did was in no way illegal. Greene, like many others, made a calculated investment and won big.

Supporting materials provided by the Meek Campaign:
Warren Buffett: Derivatives a Ticking "Time Bomb" and "Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction." On Sept. 18, 2008, Reuters reported, "Five years ago, billionaire investor Warren Buffett called [derivatives like credit default swaps] a 'time bomb' and 'financial weapons of mass destruction' and directed the insurance arm of his Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) to exit the business." [Reuters, 9/18/2008]

Statement: (Greene video) "They'll attack me for my friends and past when I was single. Some of it is true but none of it matters."

Supporting materials provided by the Meek Campaign:

In an April 29, 2010 video announcing his run for Florida's Senate seat, Jeff Greene said, "They'll attack me for my friends and past when I was single. Some of it is true but none of that matters." [YouTube, 4/29/2010]

Statement: Betting on suffering does matter.
This is opinion.

Whether or not that is what Greene did, or if it matters is a judgment for the voters to make.

First Coast News

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