Unions, Healthcare Reform, and Coal: ads seen during the Arizona debate

The lively Republican debate with many fact-challenged statements also had some excellent commercial breaks with some issue ads. And one issue ad that, if you didn’t know the extremely narrow definition of express advocacy for or against politicians up for election, you’d think was a campaign ad.

Take a look at this one, from the cleverly named “Center for Union Facts.”

Research has shown ads with messages reflecting the self-interest of the group paying for the ad are considered less trustworthy. Fortunately, that’s not a problem for the Center for Union Facts – because they don’t disclose their donors. A spokesperson for the group has said it’s because unions regularly threaten anyone who opposes them.

This ad also ran during the Super Bowl, and the Washington Post awarded the claim “only 10 percent of people in unions today actually voted to join the union” three Pinnochios. Mark Hemingway over at the Weekly Standard tore apart Glenn Kessler’s fact check.

To get the 10 percent figure, the Center for Union Facts used two different data sets… Kessler took issue with this, writing:

Essentially, Wilson tried to estimate the proportion of employees who both would have voted for the establishment of a union at their companies and were still in their jobs. Because of limitations in the data, he said some guesswork was involved but he came up with a statistic of 9.25 percent. [Update: Wilson objects to the word “guesswork,” which is our word, not his, based on our conversation. He says the data has a bias in favor of the unions.]

Kessler also wrote at length about how this selective fact did not reflect actual attitudes about unions. Heminway particularly took issue with this, since that’s not a “fact check” – he’s right, it’s more of a context check.

What interests me is that this group, which doesn’t have to reveal its donors, can run ad campaigns targeting the passage of specific legislation by encouraging grassroots lobbying by individuals. And the innocuous name implies it’s a totally unbiased group just trying to get the facts out. Which, you know, it could be… if this wasn’t the real world.


I’ve seen this ad about 20 times or so in the past couple of months. It’s very eye-catching and has extremely ominous music. Incidentally, research has shown ominous background music evokes fear and anxiety and can influence people to reconsider their opinions.

This ad is part of a multi-state campaign by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce targeting vulnerable Senate Democrats.


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