Whether the issue is turmoil over the U.S. Postal Service, prescription drugs, or just how often she votes with President Trump, Maine’s Republican Sen. Susan Collins has been under intense fire over the last several weeks.
Liberal groups and their billionaire backers have targeted Collins with $40 million spent so far in the race – making it the most expensive political race in Maine’s history.
Collins’ opponents are backing Democrat state House Speaker Sara Gideon.
But the withering TV ad attacks on Collins often come with little basis in fact.
Many of these ads come from Senate Majority Political Action Committee, backed by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., which has deployed $4.8 million of its $28 million raised this cycle to beat Collins.
And then there’s the Lincoln Project, a group of so-called Republicans that claim their main goal was to oust President Donald Trump but are targeting Republicans like Collins in an apparent effort to flip the Senate to Democrat control.
A leading media source for Newsmax in Maine calls the ad barrage on Collins a “lie machine.”
Here are some of these falsehoods:
Claim: Collins is responsible for the Post Office problems.
A TV spot from the Senate Majority PAC blames Collins for the current troubles of the Postal Service because she voted for the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 which overhauled the quasi-government corporation overseeing U.S. mail. “Susan Collins, how could you let this happen?” the spot concludes ominously.
FACT: As it turns out, the Bangor Daily News concluded, “While Collins co-authored the bill and sponsored it in the Senate, several big-name Democrats co-sponsored it at the time, including Schumer.”
Moreover, the Daily News pointed out, while the overhaul forced the Postal Service to pay retiree health and retirement benefits decades in advance, “the big reason for [its] liability growth was $55.4 billion in defaults last year. It was a huge setback for the agency and the debt continues to hang over it.”
Claim: Collins is responsible for higher drug costs.
Gideon’s campaign hit hard with a Facebook ad this month claiming that “Mainers [are] paying 10 times more for some medicines” because “Susan Collins took $1.5 million from drug and insurance companies and voted twice to allow drug companies to keep cheaper generic drugs off the market.”
FACT: While Collins did take $1.5 million from pharmaceutical and insurance industries throughout her 24-year career, the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded that the two bills that she supported was a case of “cherry-picking” her record. Collins has backed President George W. Bush’s prescription drug program to make drugs affordable to seniors and has consistently advocated for drug price controls.
Claim: Collins voted to increase taxes on middle-class families
Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC slammed Collins in a new ad for voting to increase taxes on middle-class families.
FACT: The Bangor Daily News countered that “most Mainers actually saw taxes go down due to the 2017 Republican tax law backed by Collins, though it was set up in a way that low- and middle-income families could see their taxes go up later.” Collins has always been a “supply-sider” in the Senate, backing tax cuts for families and small business.
Claim: Collins never stands up to Trump.
Branding the senator a “Trump stooge,” a 60-second spot by the Lincoln Project admonishes Mainers that “Susan Collins never stands up to Donald Trump.”
FACT: Although Collins did cast a pivotal vote for Trump’s controversial Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and for the 2017 tax cut, her overall record includes several significant breaks with the president.
She was one of three Republican senators to oppose repeal of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2017; opposed confirmation of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; opposed Trump’s exit from the Paris Climate Accords; and opposed his plan to defund Planned Parenthood.
Claim: Collins ignored problems with opioids.
Another ad sculpted by the Senate Majority PAC claims Collins “voted against accountability for opioid makers” and “lied” when she said she didn’t take money from a family whose wealth comes from selling the highly addictive OxyContin.
FACT: The specific vote was in a Senate committee and it was against an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I.-Vt., that would have imposed retroactive fines on companies and executives and that would have set new punishments for future activities.
Collins campaign spokesman Kevin Kelley told reporters that three other Democrats voted against the measure and that Collins’ concern was the Sanders amendment "was written so broadly that anyone involved in a transaction could have been implicated."
Politifact concluded the ad was “misleading” and that while Collins voted against one measure on accountability for drug manufacturers, she “voted for several others that became law.”
Claim: Collins took money to benefit the hotel industry
Another Gideon spot claims Collins took $12,000 from the corporate hotel industry “as coronavirus spread” and “wrote a special loophole into her bill allowing large, out-of-state hotels to get millions—while only one in ten Maine small businesses were getting the help they needed.”
FACT: Collins did raise $12,000 from the hotel industry in February—a microscopic portion of the $2 million she raised in the first quarter of 2020.
The legislation referred to is the Paycheck Protection Plan, and a weekly non-random survey by the Census Bureau has found in recent weeks that 66 to 73 percent of the firms surveyed in Maine said they had received PPP funds.
Claim: Collins didn’t protect Medicare
One of the mysterious “dark money” groups known as Maine Momentum—whose source of funding will not be available until after the election—ran a rough-edged spot featuring a cancer survivor named “David” who urges Collins to “stop risking” Social Security and Medicare. Earlier the spot claimed that she supported the 2017 tax cut which benefits corporation and the wealthy and this somehow endangered the two entitlements.
FACT: The Washington Post’s fact checker points out the claim is from a “Tax Policy Center” report — which it is not — and that Collins “affirmatively took a step to protect Medicare from budget cuts — fact unacknowledged by the ad.”
After the presidential race, the Maine U.S. Senate election is turning out to be the most crucial for 2020.
For over 20 years Collins has served in the Senate and has become known as feisty Republican maverick who marched to her own drummer with the goal of helping Maine.
It is doubtful any amount of money can change the facts about Susan Collins.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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