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Truth Test on PAC ad attacking Chris Collins

1:03 PM, Sep 27, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - There's a new ad hitting the airwaves, in support of Democrat Kathy Hochul in her bid for re-election to Congress.

It's what some might call a "negative ad", because it hits her Republican opponent Chris Collins pretty hard.

But is it on the "up-and up"?

Two On Your Side is putting the ad through the rigors of our "Truth Test".

The ad, called "Now Hiring", is produced and paid for not by Hochul, but by the "House Majority PAC", a Democratic group which says it's going spend a half million dollars on ads supporting Hochul.

"Without question," said House Majority PAC spokesperson Andy Stone. "That's a lot of money, but Republicans have made no secret of the amount of money they're willing to invest in this race and the fact is Chis Collins has values that are way out of touch with Western New York," Stone told WGRZ-TV, adding that the group stands "%100" by the claims made in the ad.

The 30-second ad, narrated by a male, begins:

"Chris Collins says he supports jobs. Apparently, not for everyone."

Technically there's some truth to that,...as Collins would like in particular to relieve Hochul of her job as a member of Congress.

"As County Executive, Collins gave jobs to his friends, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars."

That particular claim (as indicated by a line of text seen on the screen as it is uttered) references an article in the Buffalo News published nearly 5 years ago, before Collins was sworn in.

We went to the Buffalo and Erie County public library and found the article, which profiled five folks he was appointing to his cabinet, revealing that one had previously worked for him in one of his companies, that another was related to prominent Republican fund raiser Anthony Goia, and that another had known Collins for 12 years.

It is also true that their salaries were paid by taxpayers, collectively to the tune of thousands of dollars a year.

However, that section of the ad also references a Buffalo Business First article from 12/19/11.

We checked that week's print edition of Business First, and found no reference to Collins at all.

Business First did publish an on line article on that particular date mentioning Collins, but it merely mentions that Collins' appointees to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency would likely be replaced by incoming County Exec. Mark Poloncarz, and those positions are voluntary and don't cost taxpayers a dime.

The ad continues:

"Collins awarded his own company a lucrative county contract.."

Once again, there's a reference to a Buffalo News article (published on 2/26/09) and once again we looked it up.

The article reported that a contract to repair sewer system motors, was awarded to Volland Electric Equipment, a company of which Collins was part owner.

Technically, however, the county's control board approved the contract. In addition, whether $90,000 is a "llucrative" deal, would be up to interpretation.

But more importantly, this ad makes no mention that just days later, Collins asked Volland to withdraw its bid, which it did, and directed all firms he had a stake in to no longer submit bids for county work. Nor does it mention a subsequent County Comptroller's report, which concluded Volland had in fact submitted the lowest bid, and that Collins "had no undue influence in the process".

Therefore, we would have to conclude that part of the ad is misleading.


Next:

"(Collins) had products manufactured overseas, creating jobs in Korea and China..."

At that point, in the ad, there is a screen reference to Collins' company Ingenious Products.

As we revealed in a prior truth test, it has a contract to buy some, but not all, of its products from a Chinese manufacturer, then re-sells them...and that Collins does not have any employees or factories in China.

Although if he's buying product from a Chinese firm, it does stand to reason that the firm making the product does employ Chinese workers. Taken in its context, though, we find the claim somewhat misleading.

The ad concludes:

"Chris Collins, creating jobs, but not for you. Because he's only out for himself."

That of course is an opinion, but in an ad, which states Collins gave jobs to his friends, it would appear technically that he was not out for "just himself".

The primary truth to understand, dear viewer, is that when it comes to this or any other political ad, candidates can say anything they want, and broadcast stations like WGRZ cannot legally alter the ad's contents.

However, that does not stop us from putting them to The Truth Test.

Click on the video player to watch ours story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher from Eden.

Click here to read Dave McKinley's blogs.

Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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