The two Connecticut candidates for U.S. Senate -- Republican Linda McMahon and Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy -- threw lots of facts at each other during Thursday night's debate, but at times they stretched them or used them selectively.
Here are a few examples:
McMahon said that Murphy got a "special loan" that others couldn't have obtained from Webster Bank in 2008 on a new $43,000 second-mortgage home equity line of credit at 4.99 percent on his Cheshire home, only a year after a different bank sued for foreclosure on the first mortgage.
There's no proof of special treatment, though, and Murphy and Webster have cited prevailing market rates and expert opinions in denying her assertion.
However, McMahon was correct in saying that Murphy, an attorney, had done legal work for Webster and that he has refused to release financial documents concerning his loan that could prove publicly that the handling of his application was routine and without favor. "I would just say please release the documents," she said.
Murphy, for his part, was correct when he said McMahon took 36 years to repay remaining creditors from the $1 million bankruptcy of her and her husband in 1976. McMahon, however, legally settled her debts in the 1976 bankruptcy case. She began repaying some of the unpaid bills from the bankruptcy last month, after a reporter from the Day of New London dug up the old bankruptcy records and wrote a story.
McMahon has said that before the news story she didn't have the bankruptcy records to know whom to pay. Murphy said he didn't think that was "credible."
Murphy said that McMahon had "told a tea party political group that she supported sunsetting Social Security -- that's a polite way of saying ending Social Security if certain changes aren't made." But McMahon said she would never cut senior citizens' benefits, and cited a Thursday Courant "Claim Check" column that found a pro-Murphy television ad to be false in its assertion that she "would end Social Security."
While it is correct that McMahon used the word "sunset" in a question-and-answer session with a Waterford tea party group, her comment was in a context that included preserving the program's financial viability. Here is her quote, as cited in the column:
"We cannot continue, you know, doing things the way we are doing with Social Security. We're just simply going to be bankrupt. And I do believe that there are ways to look at ... you know, what were we trying to do when we put Social Security in place? We didn't go back and review it. In other words, I believe in sunset provisions when we pass this kind of legislation, so that you take a look at it 10, 15 years down the road to make sure that it's still going to fund itself. Social Security will run out of money if we continue to do what we're doing, if we rob the trust fund."
When Murphy used part of that McMahon quote during the debate, he ended it at "15 years down the road" and left out the part about making "sure that it's still going to fund itself," as well as what followed.
McMahon said that Murphy "voted to take $716 billion out of Medicare" by supporting President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. That assertion has become part of the national political debate in the campaign for the presidential and congressional elections. Here is what the Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck.com website says about it:
"Republicans claim the president's $716 billion 'cuts' to Medicare hurt the program's finances. But the opposite is true. These cuts in the future growth of spending prolong the life of the Medicare trust fund, stretching the program's finances out longer than they would last otherwise.
"Mitt Romney has claimed that President Barack Obama has 'robbed' Medicare. Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, said Obama 'turned Medicare into a piggy bank to fund Obamacare,' promising to 'stop the raid on Medicare.' And the Republican National Committee is promoting on its website a feature it calls 'Obama's Countdown to Medicare's Bankruptcy,' which lists the days, hours, minutes and seconds left until the Medicare Part A trust fund is exhausted. But there would be even fewer days until the fund's exhaustion if Obama's health care law hadn't included those $700 billion in spending reductions.
"It's true that experts, including Medicare's chief actuary, doubt that some of those spending cuts will actually be implemented. But if they are, Medicare would spend less each year than it had been expected to otherwise, allowing Medicare to stretch further the income it receives from payroll taxes and premiums."
McMahon said that Murphy, who has touted his credentials as a fighter for average Americans, actually "voted to increase taxes on the middle class twice already." This claim has been made in her TV ads. It refers to congressional votes in which many Democrats, including Murphy, opposed Republicans' efforts to extend Bush tax cuts beyond the end of 2010 because the Bush cuts included tax relief for wealthy Americans. Democrats wanted to extend the lower tax rates only for families with incomes lower than $250,000.
Murphy voted against bills in August and December 2010 that extended the Bush cuts for everyone. In the end, a compromise was worked out in Congress.
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