(Wall Lake, Iowa) In the most dishonest ad running in Iowa this election cycle, Democrat Jim Mowrer authorized and approved a message saying Congressman Steve King “…takes perks like free healthcare for life.” In defending the ad – in fact, when doubling-down on the ad’s content – Mowrer as well as his spokesman repeat and embolden the claim. PolitiFact labels their claim a “Pants on Fire” lie.
“Unfortunately for Mowrer, the ad is not only blatantly false, it’s also woefully unoriginal. If the Mowrer campaign knew how to use an Internet search engine, they would discover their baseless attack was attempted in other campaigns and proven to be a complete fabrication,” observed Michael Stevens, King for Congress Campaign Manager. “For instance, when Democratic group Patriot Majority USA attacked Congressman Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) by saying he voted for ‘…taxpayer-funded healthcare for life.’ PolitiFact called them out for the lie. In Florida’s 2nd District, Democrat Gwen Graham attempted to smear Rep. Steve Southerland with the same ‘health care for life’ allegation, but PolitiFact again called them out for this lie.”
In their reports, PolitiFact cites the Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) Program as the means for healthcare coverage for Members of Congress and aides. They wrote, “Under the program, federal employees under the age of 65 can choose among a variety of health insurance offerings; they pay a share of the premiums and their employer, the government, pays the rest, just as private-sector employers typically do for their employees.” Then, at age 65, Medicare becomes the healthcare coverage for Members and aides just as it does for all citizens.
What does that look like for Steve and his wife, Marilyn? He is covered under FEHB and MediCare Part A (hospitalization only) which is a supplement for hospitalization costs which FEHB might not cover. The Kings pay $799.76 per month – a total of $9,597.12 per year. That’s 47 percent of the cost of the insurance. If ObamaCare is repealed, they would go back to the previous policy for which the Kings paid 28 percent of the premium.
PolitiFact’s conclusion on the two ads? “While the government does fund a portion of federal employee’s health insurance costs, it does so in the same capacity as any private-sector employer that offers health insurance to its workers. And the coverage doesn’t last ‘for life.’ We rate the claim Pants on Fire!”
“While the claims from Patriot Majority USA and Gwen Graham were rated ‘Pants on Fire,’ Mowrer’s ad actually uses more dishonest language by stating Steve’s alleged lifetime healthcare coverage is free. Steve King’s health insurance is not free and it’s not for life,” Stevens stated. “If Jim Mowrer will authorize and air a warmed over false ad with these blatant lies, then insist they have been fact checked, and that he has been misquoted, how can he be trusted on anything?”
Editor’s note: Kathy Obradovich of The Des Moines Register also found Mowrer’s ad to be misleading.
After reviewing the ad and both campaigns’ claims and counter-claims, I think it boils down to these two points:
• King voted in February 2009 against House Resolution 184, a procedural measure that paved the way for the debate of a budget bill. The resolution also contained language to block a pay increase for members of Congress. So by voting “no,” King technically voted against the pay freeze. King, however, argues his “no” vote was an objection to the larger, Democrat-sponsored budget bill, not an endorsement of a pay increase.
• King voted in March 2012 for the budget resolution authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which among many other provisions would have repealed the Affordable Care Act. The Mowrer campaign points out that repealing Obamacare would also repeal provisions requiring members of Congress to share the cost of their health-care premiums. From that, Mowrer’s ad concludes that King’s vote was in favor of free health insurance for himself and other members of Congress.
The ad is misleading on both points, but especially on the health care provision. King has voted multiple times to repeal Obamacare, and it’s a stretch to suggest he did that to restore free health insurance for members of Congress.
King has voted in the past for congressional pay freezes.This particular vote would have blocked another pay increase. But congressional leaders in both parties play games with pay increases for members of Congress. The pay freeze appears to have been a little poison pill from Democratic majority leaders for Republicans who wanted to oppose the budget bill. Both parties play these kinds of games to confuse voters.