PoliGraph: MN Jobs Coalition Erickson ad misleads


Republicans need to pick up only seven seats in the Minnesota House to end single-party rule in St. Paul, and one DFLer they’re targeting is Rep. Roger Erickson of Baudette.

The Minnesota Jobs Coalition is among the conservative groups criticizing Erickson’s record. In its latest television ad, it says Erickson is a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama’s policies. Similar spots are running in seven other House districts.

“President Obama said he’s not on the ballot this year, but his policies are," the ad says. “Like Obamacare, which hurt seniors and cut Medicare by $716 billion. Roger Erickson voted with Minneapolis liberals to bring Obamacare to Minnesota. Families lost their coverage, but Obamacare bureaucrats in Minnesota got big bonuses. And Erickson voted to waste $90 million on a luxury office building for politicians while raising taxes by over $2 billion.”

There are plenty of holes in this ad, enough to make it misleading.

The Evidence

The Jobs Coalition makes a lot of claims in this spot. Repeatedly it attempts to link Erickson to policies that he played no role in crafting.

“Obamacare… cut Medicare by $716 billion”: PoliGraph has tackled versions of this claim before, and always finds it misleading because it leaves out context. The Affordable Care Act doesn’t cut Medicare benefits. But it does slow future growth of the program by reducing payments to Medicare Advantage, which is a private insurance program that serves as an alternative to traditional Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office says that will save about $716 billion.

Erickson didn’t play a role in this plan, either, because it was decided by lawmakers in Washington.

“Roger Erickson voted with Minneapolis liberals to bring Obamacare to Minnesota”: This claim refers to passage of a bill that effectively gave the state authority to create an online health insurance marketplace, commonly known as MNsure. It’s a bit of a stretch to say that the exchange is the same thing as Obamacare as a whole – but state-run exchanges are  a cornerstone of the  federal health care law. Like most other Democrats in the House, Erickson voted to create the exchange.

Families lost their coverage…” In 2013, more than 140,000 people in Minnesota buying their own insurance were told that they would be paying more to keep their current plans because of new rules in the Affordable Care Act that require insurers to include benefits like hospital coverage, maternal care and mental health care. The idea was to weed out catastrophic plans that are not robust enough. In Minnesota, health care plans can’t be cancelled. But at the time, consumers complained that the cost hikes were tantamount to a cancellation, especially if they couldn’t afford the increased costs.

Again, these changes aren’t the result of a vote Erickson cast or a specific policy he supported. Rather, this is the result of the federal law, which was approved by lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

 “…but Obamacare bureaucrats in Minnesota got big bonuses.” It’s true that $26,000 was divvied up between 14 MNsure managers right before the troubled website launched in 2013 (a more recent audit puts that number at $32,000). But the decision to issue those bonuses was made by former MNsure chief April Todd-Malmlov, not the Legislature and not Erickson.

“And Erickson voted to waste $90 million on a luxury office building for politicians while raising taxes by over $2 billion.” Erickson voted for a 2013 tax bill that authorized the project, but the legislation included no price tag for the building and allocated no funding for the construction. The tax bill also included a $2 billion tax increase, but this funding wasn’t related to the cost of building the new office facility.

The ad also stretches the truth on the cost of the new Senate Office Building.  While the overall cost of the structure will be about $90 million, taxpayers are only on the hook for $77 million. The remainder will come from parking fees. (The state’s Department of Administration recently said the taxpayer cost may be even lower.)

The Verdict

There are nuggets of truth scattered throughout the Minnesota Jobs Coalition ad.

But in several instances, it stretches the truth or leaves out context. And it links Erickson to legislation he never voted on because it was crafted in Washington, not Minnesota.

The Minnesota Jobs Coalition spot is misleading at best.

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