Democratic debate night: Fact checking the candidates on the issues
Ten candidates are participating in the first of two presidential debates.
Here's ABC News' fact check of the first of two Democratic presidential debates in Miami between Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Rep. John Delaney, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan and Mayor Bill de Blasio:
FACT CHECK: Booker on accepting contributions from pharma companies
Moderator: "Sen. Booker, I want to come back on a discussion we were having about health and the opioid crisis. You represent a state where 14 of the 20 largest pharmaceutical companies are based. Should pharmaceutical companies that manufacture these drugs be held criminally liable for what they do?"
Booker: "They should absolutely be held criminally liable because they are liable and responsible. This is one of the reasons why long before I was running for president I said I would not take contributions from pharma companies, not take contributions from corporate PACs or pharma executives, because they're part of this problem and this opioid addiction in our country."
Contrary to his pledge to not take any contributions from pharma companies, corporate PACs or pharma executives, Booker's presidential campaign actually has accepted donations from executives from the pharmaceutical industry.
In the latest disclosure report filed to the Federal Election Commission, Booker's campaign reported receiving several maximum donations from executives and leaders from pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Sanofi and Eagle Pharmaceuticals.
Booker’s ties to pharma donors began well before his presidential campaign. Individuals and PACs affiliated with the pharmaceutical and health product industry have given more than $480,000 to his campaign and leadership PAC during the course of his Senate career.
FACT CHECK: Klobuchar on Iran deal
Klobuchar: "I would have worked to get longer sunset periods and that's something we could negotiate to get back in the deal. But the point is, Donald Trump told us when he got out of it that he was going to give us a better deal. Those were his words. And now we are a month away from the Iranians who claim now that they're going to blow the caps on enriching uranium."
President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, but has promised a "better," more comprehensive deal. But during negotiations with Iran, Obama administration officials said they got the best deal they could and since withdrawing, the Trump administration has been unable to negotiate a new deal with European allies, let alone Iran.
Often called "sunset" clauses, certain prohibitions in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action expire after 10 and 15 years, allowing Iran to increase its number of centrifuges, total enrichment capacity, and levels of enriched uranium -- the material that can fuel nuclear weapons. That will reduce the time it would take to produce nuclear weapons, although Iran says it does not want to pursue them.
While critics of the deal condemn those expiration dates, Obama officials also say they could not extend them any further. The Trump administration tried to extend them in a new agreement with European allies, but failed after the European Union said they could not be renegotiated.
Instead, Iran says that the deal must be enforced as is, meaning the U.S. should lift sanctions and allow Iran to obtain the economic gains of the deal. Until then, Iran has threatened to break through limits on its uranium enrichment stockpiles, which it promises to start doing Thursday, not in a month.
FACT CHECK: Ryan on State Department vacancies
Ryan: "This president doesn't even have people appointed in the State Department to deal with these things. Whether we're talking about Central America, whether we're talking about Iran, whether we're talking about Afghanistan ... When we weren't in there, they started flying planes into our buildings."
The State Department has faced a rash of vacancies under the Trump administration, but the U.S. currently has ambassadors in Afghanistan and most Central America countries, except for Honduras, Belize, and Panama. The Trump administration also has special envoys for Afghanistan and Iran, dedicated to diplomatic efforts related to those two countries.
Gabbard corrected Ryan during the debate, the Sept. 11 terror attacks were not perpetrated by the Taliban, but by al-Qaeda. The Taliban, an Afghan militant group that ruled the country before the U.S. invasion in 2001, did provide safe haven to al-Qaeda operatives to plan the attacks and the groups maintain ties, according to the United Nations.
FACT CHECK: Warren claims seven children die each day from gun violence
Warren: "Seven children will die today from gun violence, children and teenagers."
While Warren’s wording is forward looking -- using the future tense -- based on the most recent government statistics available, her claim is in the ballpark of what one could expect.
Data from the Center for Disease Control shows that 6.63 children, 18 and under, died from violence-related firearm deaths in 2017, which is the last year those statistics are available. (2,420 total deaths divided by 365 days = 6.63)
FACT CHECK: O'Rourke and Castro on de-criminalizing border crossings
Castro: "The reason that they're separating these little children from their families is that they're using section 1325 of that act which criminalizes comes across the border to incarcerate the parents then separate them. Some of us on this stage have called to end that section, to terminate it. Some like Congressman O'Rourke have not."
O'Rourke: "As a member of Congress, I helped to introduce legislation that would ensure that we don't criminalize those who are seeking asylum and refuge in this country."
Castro was trying to draw a distinction between himself and O’Rourke that is very nuanced.
U.S. immigration law prohibits undocumented migrants from crossing the border, a part of law referred to as "section 1325."
Castro notes correctly that President Donald Trump used that law to justify separating parents traveling with their children to the border. Trump's now-defunct "zero-tolerance" policy in the spring of 2018 mandated prosecutions of all illegal border crossings. After an adult was detained for illegally crossing, the child was put in protective custody.
Castro wants to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings, contending that other parts of the law already exist to criminalize human trafficking.
O'Rourke has been more hesitant to go this far and says he would prefer to talk about a comprehensive immigration plan. He wants an executive order banning detention of people who don’t have criminal backgrounds. He also wants to raise visa caps so fewer people are trying to cross illegally to join family members already in the U.S.
-Anne Flaherty and Johnny Verhovek
FACT CHECK: Castro claims Trump's zero tolerance policy to blame for border death
Castro: "I would sign an executive order that would get rid of President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance policy, the 'remain in Mexico' policy, and the 'metering' policy. This metering policy is basically what prompted Oscar and Valeria to make that risky swim across the river."
The Trump administration has significantly limited the number of people who can apply for asylum each day at border crossings under its "metering" policy, causing long delays for people hoping to claim asylum on the Mexican side of the border.
According to the Associated Press, Oscar Martinez and his daughter Valeria -- whose bodies were captured in a heart-wrenching photo -- swam across the Rio Grande River because they had been unable to present themselves at a border crossing to request asylum.
FACT CHECK: Booker says tough Connecticut gun laws led to fewer deaths
Booker: "If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to buy and own a firearm. And not everybody in this field agrees with that, but in states like Connecticut that did that, they saw 40% drops in gun violence and 15% drops in suicides."
Connecticut passed a handgun permit-to-purchase law in 1995, which the American Journal of Public Health found was associated with a 40% reduction in gun deaths during the first 10 years of the law. Research from the report also found that states with stricter gun licensing regulations, generally had lower suicide rates.
FACT CHECK: Inslee claims he's the only candidate who has passed a public option.
Inslee: "I'm the only candidate who has passed a public option, and I respect everybody's goals and plans here, but we do have one candidate that's actually advanced the ball and we got to have access for everyone."
The Washington governor signed off earlier this spring on a first-in-the-nation public-option insurance plan. It will offer public health care plans that cover income-blind standard services to all residents by 2021. Controlling costs are tricky though, and participation in the plans will be voluntary for insurers and health care providers, which are necessary for it to work.
FACT CHECK: Klobuchar on Nobel Prize winners
Klobuchar: "Immigrants, they do not diminish America. They are America. I'm happy to look at his proposal, but I do think you want to make sure that you have provisions in place that allow you to go after traffickers and allow you to go after people who are violating the law. What I really think we need to step back and talk about, is the economic imperative here. And that is that 70 of our Fortune 500 companies are headed up by people that came from other countries. Twenty-five percent of our U.S. Nobel laureates were born in other countries."
Klobuchar's claim about U.S. Nobel Prize winners may have actually understated immigrants' impact.
Many U.S.-based Nobel Prize winners were born abroad. In physics, 35% of U.S. laureates were born abroad; in medicine, 36% were born abroad; in chemistry, 32%; in economics 29%, according to a 2018 survey by National Geographic. Smaller percentages of U.S. winners were born abroad in the other categories of literature and peace.
Since 2000, 39% of U.S. Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, medicine and physics from 1901 to 2017 were immigrants, according to a study by the National Foundation for American Policy.
According to a Forbes data editor's 2011 survey, 32% of Nobel Prize winners who won while in the U.S. were foreign-born.
FACT CHECK: Ryan on economic inequality
Ryan: "The bottom 60% haven't seen a raise since 1980. Meanwhile, the top 1% control 90% of the wealth."
The top 1% does not control 90% of the wealth, according to a report published by the Federal Reserve in 2017. The richest 1% of families owned 38.6% of the country's wealth in 2016, a record high controlled by the nation's wealthiest. That's more than just 22.8% of the wealth controlled by the bottom 90%.
Ryan's claim that the bottom 60% haven't seen an income raise since 1980 is backed by a study conducted by Ray Dalio, the founder of world's largest hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. According to Dalio's analysis, released in 2017, real incomes have been flat to down slightly for the average household in the bottom 60 percent since 1980, while the top 40 percent have on average more than 10 times as much wealth as those in the bottom 60 percent.
FACT CHECK: Klobuchar on pharmaceutical prices
Klobuchar: "The president literally went on TV on Fox and said that people's heads would spin when they'd see how much he would bring down pharmaceutical prices. Instead 2,500 drugs have gone up in double digits since he came into office. Instead, he gave $100 billion in giveaways to the pharma companies."
It's true that drug prices of some 2,500 drugs analyzed by the Associated Press have increased. But Trump hasn't directly given drug companies a $100 billion pay out.
On Wednesday night, Klobuchar expressed reluctance when asked about the prospect of abolishing private insurance and replacing it solely by implementing a government-run option for health care. She then went on to shift the conversation to pharmaceuticals -- claiming that 2,500 drugs have gone up in price since Trump took office.
According to an Associated Press analysis from February, "there were 2,712 price increases in the first half of this January, as compared with 3,327 increases during the same period last year," when the news organization looked at brand-name drugs.
As for the $100 billion, it would seem Klobuchar is getting that number from a partisan report -- the Senate Finance Committee ranking member, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, released a report in April 2018, that said health care groups, like health insurance and pharmaceuticals over the next 10 years were expected to receive tax cuts up to $100 billion.
FACT CHECK: Klobuchar says big pharma doesn't "own" her
Klobuchar: "And so my proposal is to do something about pharma, to take them on, to allow negotiation under Medicare, to bring in less expensive drugs from other countries and pharma thinks they own Washington, well they don't own me."
Klobuchar has accepted over $400,000 from the pharmaceutical industry over the course of her career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By comparison, pharmaceutical companies are not in the list of top donors for other candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The Minnesota Democrat has also received at least $22,025 from individuals associated with the Minnesota-based medical and pharmaceutical company named Medtronic, including $5,600 from the company's executive committee member Brad Lerman, $5,400 from board member Kendall Powell and $2,800 from executive VP and CFO Karen Parkhill. (View itemized FEC data here)
- Cheyenne Haslett and Soorin Kim
FACT CHECK: Booker says Haliburton and Amazon 'pay nothing in taxes'
Booker: "I will single out companies like Halliburton or Amazon that pay nothing in taxes and need to change that. When it comes to antitrust law, what I will do is, number one, appoint judges that will enforce it."
Amazon paid no federal taxes in 2017 and 2018 despite record U.S. profits, according to a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic policy. In previous years, the company has paid federal income taxes but at a much lower rate. President Donald Trump, in 2018, even tweeted that companies like Amazon do indeed pay "little or no taxes to state and local governments." The report also found that Halliburton managed to pay little in federal taxes, due to large corporate tax breaks.
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