Fact Check: Obama TV Ad Touts Record on Ethics, Clean Energy

Jan 18, 2012 10:52pm

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer and Steven Portnoy report:

President Obama’s re-election campaign has begun airing its first TV ad of the 2012 cycle in six battleground states, touting an “unprecedented” Obama record on ethics reform and investments in the green energy economy.

Watch the ad HERE.

The 30-second spot — released the same day the president rejected a proposed $7 billion transnational oil pipeline — portrays Obama as under fire from “secretive oil billionaires” and special interest groups determined to push back against tax breaks the administration wants to end.

Citations on screen refer directly to the pro-Republican super PAC Americans for Prosperity that earlier this week began airing $6 million of attack ads against Obama in the same six battleground states.

The AFP ad, as ABC’s Jake Tapper has noted, contains claims that are “not tethered to facts” in going after Obama over a failed $500 million government loan to energy start-up Solyndra.

Meanwhile, the new Obama ad says, “Independent watchdogs call this president’s record on ethics unprecedented” and cites data from the Brookings Institution and Energy Department that purport to show a robust clean energy sector and reduced dependence on foreign oil – all thanks to President Obama.

Close scrutiny of the fine print, however, reveals some of those claims are not without caveats.

The “unprecedented” line comes from a statement by a coalition of government watchdogs in 2009, just three months after Obama took office, who referred specifically to steps pledged early on to boost transparency and end the “revolving door” of former lobbyists becoming presidential appointees.

Since that time, however, Obama has appointed two former lobbyists to posts inside his administration, including most recently Cecilia Munoz to be his chief domestic policy adviser. Politifact – the nonpartisan fact checking group — calls this a “broken promise” by Obama.

As for 15 other ethics and transparency-related campaign promises, hailed by the watchdogs in the early days of the administration, Politifact reports a mixed bag of results. Obama’s promises to ban gifts from lobbyists to executive branch employees, release more government records, and increase protections for whistleblowers, for example, have been deemed “kept.”

Turning to the economy, the ad hails “2.7 million Clean-Energy American Jobs,” citing a July report from the Brookings Institution, the suggestion being that Obama deserves credit for the employment in those industries.

But the Brookings report does not claim Obama created or maintained those jobs, just that 2.7 million exist in that sector – which encompasses a diverse array of roles and industries, including all of the nation’s mass transit workers (e.g. bus drivers).

On American dependence on foreign oil, the ad credits Obama with reducing foreign imports below 50 percent for the first time in 13 years, but fails to mention that the downward trend, which began under President George W. Bush, is the result of a broad array of factors.

“There is no single explanation for the decline in U.S. oil import dependence since 2005,” the Energy Department report from May 2011 cited in the ad reads. “Rather, the trend results from a variety of factors. Chief among those is a significant contraction in consumption. … The downward trend in consumption started two years before the 2008 crisis and reflects factors such as changes in efficiency and consumer behavior as well as patterns of economic growth.”

The Obama administration has implemented and promoted higher fuel energy efficiency standards, which have helped further reduce Americans’ oil consumption but are not the sole factor.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski responded to the ad, noting that its focus on energy policy instead of the overall economy is a sign that Obama is being “defensive.”

“After promising to create green jobs, Obama’s reality includes preventing 20,000 jobs from being created with the Keystone pipeline and millions of taxpayer dollars lost because of his Solyndra green energy failures,” Kukowski wrote in an email.

Obama said the pipeline decision was made to allow for additional time for environmental impact review.  As for the Solyndra loan, Obama told ABC News in October that the company’s failure was unfortunate but that “hindsight is always 20/20.”

The Obama TV ad will air “for days,” a campaign official told ABC News, in local markets across Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina.  The official would not disclose the size of the buy, which he described as “significant.”

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